AFFIRMATION OF STATUS QUO
- Cinema Westerns are commercial consumer productions, and as such, they must find a popular market. Westerns of the classic era, before the multiplication of media choices at the turn of the 20th century, necessarily appealed to a broad audience, which demanded satisfactory resolutions of conflicts and a resounding affirmation of its own cultural values. Classic Westerns, then, did not challenge the audience’s values. Howard Hawks’s Red River (1948), for instance, reinforces post– World War II cultural values of white hegemony over all that can be conquered and possessed. While classic Westerns could and did explore individual psychological motivations of characters, as in Anthony Mann’s Westerns, they did not, as a rule, explore new interpretations of American history. Alternative Westerns of the 1990s, however, influenced by the New Western history of such revisionist historians as Patricia Limerick, began rejecting the values of the classic Western’s audience and began a process, still in progress, of reinterpreting the myth of the West. Some critics attribute a decline in popularity of cinema Westerns at the turn of the new century to this shift away from affirming the status quo of the broad range of cinema audiences.
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.
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