Westerns have always been a staple piece of American cinema, but there is not a soul in the world that doesn’t see just how different westerns have become. Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Things evolve over time, so it’s only natural that a movie genre would change over the years.
But, if someone were to ask you, what’s so different about the new westerns compared to the old ones, would you be able to give a good answer? If you couldn’t – don’t beat yourself up about it. Not many people could.
On that note, we’ve decided to help. We’re going to take on a 100-year-old trip down memory lane, so you can see how and in which ways have westerns evolved. Let’s begin.
Notions Of Good And Evil
From the earliest days of westerns, the main motif in all of the movies was the fight between good and evil. You had a lonesome, good looking, clean-shaven guy that carried himself with pride, and there was nothing in his life that he loved more than his horse and his revolver. You could call this guy the first American hero. He was tough but righteous; ladies loved him, but he couldn’t love them back, and if you had a moustache and were planning on fighting him – you’d get shot. The good guys always won, and there was a clear distinction between the good guy and the bad guy. And, in the end, our hero somehow always managed to ride off into the sunset. There was no straying off of that path as far as the moviemakers were concerned.
Nowadays, we’re dealing more in the grey area. There are no good guys and bad guys in today’s westerns. Every character is the good, the bad and the ugly – all at the same time. You can perfectly see this in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight or Django, or even in Hostiles, the movie with Christian Bale as the main character. Scott J Cooper covered the topic of the internal fight between good and evil in the Hostiles, and as far as we’re concerned – it’s the same in every other modern-day western.
Cowboys vs Indians
For a long period, westerns depicted Native Americans as the bad ones. The cowboys were the good guy, just trying to make the American dream happen. Nobody cared about the sacred land. All they wanted was a railroad across the continent because that was what America wanted. And, it was always an unfair fight. Native Americans would ride on in their magnificent stallions, carrying bows and arrows, only to be mowed down by the cowboys with rifles and revolvers.
Nowadays, the theme of cowboys vs Indians is non-existent, mostly due to the fact that you can’t mask the outright genocide as a make-believe fight between good and evil. We all know that the good guys from the old days were nothing more than mindless bullies.
Whether these changes are good or bad, we can’t really say. The fact is, westerns aren’t as popular as they were before, but that’s hardly because they’ve changed. It is us that have changed and evolved past them.