POLITICAL commentators have failed to pick up on this, but Joe Biden’s American presidential election victory has blocked the inevitable return to our screens of cowboy and western movies.
As a child, I hated them. Still do. Whenever my dad was indoors they were somehow permanently on TV even though none of the three channels had one scheduled. How did he find them?
His decades working in the mill had damaged his hearing, so the volume was always approaching maximum. Strangely, his hearing returned whenever my brother and I played music, him blasting out Phil Collins or Erasure, me some cleverly researched alternative post-punk art school new-wave. Obviously.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG...! Endless shooting rocked the house as the cowboys, following a brief saloon bar brawl, had ridden off into the sunset, only to spot some pesky “Red Indians” dancing round a totem pole in the distance. What else was a red-blooded John Wayne supposed to do but gun them down with the calmness of a man taking part in a casual clay pigeon shoot?
The freedom of the west was something to be admired, to long for, well, as long as you were on the “right” side.
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The good guys — the cowboys (the Lone Ranger seemed all right, to be fair), in case you were wondering — never lost, sparing at the very best a couple of kids and the odd squaw from instant death before moving on to burst through the swing doors of another one horse town bar which would inevitably have its neatly displayed collection of spirits destroyed in a spontaneous gun fight.
John Wayne himself — his real name was the rather less macho Marion — was a white supremacist and a supporter of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee, which sought to rid the country of writers, artists, film-makers believed to not be following the script.
He wasn’t method acting and sometimes his real-life comments echoed those of the characters in his films: “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from the Indians. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.” Times may have changed but clearly Lord Kilclooney hadn’t realised when he referred to US vice president-elect Kamala Harris as “the Indian” last week.
They wouldn’t allow these films anymore — indeed, the stories contained within them post-Vietnam became less about civilising “savages” and Brokeback Mountain would certainly not have been made in the heyday of the Western — but perhaps they don’t need to because Donald Trump made it all real again.
Plus, the world isn’t convinced that the American dream is the one we want anymore and a trad cowboy film probably doesn’t resonate so much in China, Russia, India or even over here — not when there’s the reality of space, superheroes and wizards to consider.
Trump is a cowboy kid in the true sense of the word, willing to have a potato gun pop at anyone who disagrees with him and might be of “non-American” heritage.
They are all “Red Indians” to Donald, who perhaps isn’t even aware of the “name change” to Native Americans. He’s still angry that they’ve invaded his country, too busy dancing round painting their faces, making head-dresses and chanting (we actually did that in primary school!) to get jobs and increase the wealth of the city-centric business elite.
They don’t join in, you know, a bit like those guys who invaded Australia.