POSTMODERN WESTERNS

   This term is often used so loosely that it is not very helpful, but there are certain Westerns released since the 1990s for which the term is appropriate. Usually, postmodernism refers to the utter rejection of the grand meta-narratives upon which modernity was based. If alternative Westernsassume the traditional Western myths of the modern period are no longer valid and instead attempt to provide an alternate view of history, postmodern Westerns from the same period no longer question the past because questioning is irrelevant. Postmodernism is fundamentally about rejecting outright any sense of myth at all. It is not that the myths are not valid; it is that there are no myths. Postmodern Westerns are stylistically different from other Westerns in that they reject any duty to portray reality. The audience knows immediately as the film begins that what it is seeing is not real, was never real, and is not to be confused with reality. In fact, reality itself is open for questioning. For the outsider, for the viewer still accustomed to watching old John Wayne Westerns, these films just do not make sense. They mix everything up. We have bullet holes that go clean through so that a shaft of sunlight shines through in The Quick and the Dead (1995). Or, in Dead Man (1995), we have a protagonist who is the reincarnation (evidently) of a dead English poet going on a quest through utterly surreal landscape.
   See also HISTORICAL AUTHENTICITY.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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