Friday, November 02, 2007

The Western Heroes Dual, Part I

As a film genre deeply rooted in the transposition of civilized and savage elements, the Western inherently allows for the exploration and establishment of specific, individualized moral codes. In turn, the Western offers a variety of protagonist archetypes: the outstandingly upright Ladds, the forthright and masculine Waynes, the morally ambiguous Eastwoods, the slightly on edge Stewarts. These Western Heroes may have spurs and a sense of ruggedness in common, but it’s their distinct moral personalities that made them legends. Perhaps this is why it is most interesting when a film places two protagonist types in a dual narrative structure. Aside from adding layers of tension to melodrama, dual protagonists allow for a tiered representation of the civilizing process; a kaleidoscope that refracts concepts of a blossoming America.

However that is not to say all Westerns with dual protagonist structures reach the same conclusions. Both Shane (1953) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) feature dual protagonists, but their reflections on the civilized West are much different. Each film contains a ‘savage’ and ‘civil’ protagonist, and both favor the prospect of democratic growth. But where Shane shows clear praise for it’s savage hero, Liberty Valance paints a storybook West in which one myth is exchanged for another. The next few posts will be dedicated to exploring dual protagonists as they exist in these two films.

The Western Heroes Dual Part II coming soon!

1 comment:

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