Sharkbait101

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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    John Wayne and the death of the cowboy

    John Wayne was seen as the epitome of the American Hero during the age of the Western film. He was beloved by many, even with his strong conservative politics and often brash language. However, in the 60s, America’s view shifted. They no longer looked to Westerns for inspiration and John Wayne, while still beloved, faded to the background (as symbolically seen in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". I would like to see an analysis of John Wayne’s connection to American culture further, and his impact on American culture long after America turned away from him.

    • Something interesting one could pursue while contemplating this topic is James Baldwin's discussion of John Wayne in his unfinished book- now a film- "I am Not Your Negro." In it he discusses heroes, in particular figures like John Wayne; a perspective like this I think could be an interesting frame of reference for a topic like this. In particular, I find this quote of Baldwin's to be very powerful: “A Black man who sees the world in the way John Wayne sees it would not be an eccentric patriot, but a raving maniac…The truth is that this country does not know what to do with its Black population.” – ees 2 years ago
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    • This is an interesting topic, especially because westerns seem to be having a comeback after a long dry spell. Between the Magnificent 7 reboot, Hostless, Godless, and Westworld, westerns are back in fashion. Are these new westerns evidence that audiences wish to rekindle themes of John Wayne movies? – Ben Lashar 2 years ago
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    Latest Comments

    I’m not so sure about “Her”. While a great movie in and of itself, it does fall trap to a very hipster trend that could easily be reflected in films made decades ago that have fallen flat due to now non-existent cultural trends. Just like some movies from the 80s are seen as “yuppie” and some movies from the 60s “hippie”, “Her” can easily fall into the category of hipster that future audiences will not find as strong of a connection to or respect for.

    The 21st Century Films Prepared For Classic Status

    Both this movie and “The Way Way Back”, made by the same producers, deal with strong themes of mental health in suburban American families. We’ve grown up in a society of the picket-fence family ideal. However, the reality is that no family, no matter how they look, are perfect. “Little Miss Sunshine” is a great example of a deconstruction of that.

    Little Miss Sunshine or Little Miss Psychological Dysfunction

    “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” feels like an end-of-an-era type of Western. John Wayne was seen as a cultural hero of an American myth that never was. To me, this movie represented the unveiling of that myth. All previous John Wayne movies, for the most part, had him as the proud hero who won the girl in the end. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is the ultimate subversion of all this. With John Ford behind the helm, the subversion is even more pronounced. The idea of the Western, where a man could “make his own code and live by it” to quote Joan Didion, was mere wishful dreaming. At the end of the 60s, the guise of this American Dream was disappearing. American audiences simply no longer believed it or began to doubt it. This movie was the final reveal. The Western was nothing but a myth built upon exaggerated truths that will die with the men who spun them.

    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: Cultural Attitude of the Press