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What Westerns Mean To Us

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If you’re a fan of Westerns, check out the latest New York Times magazine. Sunday’s issue was devoted to all things Western, almost a small book worth of information. On the Web, you’ll get even more.

What Westerns Mean – A.O. Scott explains what Westerns tell us about America. Mostly, he talks about "the stranger, who’s mostly on the side of good…but isn’t part of the society of decent, law-abiding people he’s defending.’ To prove his point, he talks about the movie, Shane, one of the legendary, outsider characters in Westerns. He also talks about John Wayne in The Searchers as a "haunted, haunting, and troubled figure."

Coen Brothers – There’s an artful, beautifully photographed slide show featuring the actors in the filmmakers’ otherworldy No Country For Old Men.

But it’s Luc Sante who best puts the resurgence of the Western into perspective. Writes Sante about the lessons we can learn about today’s Western — and the way we live now: "First of all: Everyone is potentially an outlaw, and everyone who takes
action is effectively an outlaw. Second: Success will probably lead to
ruin. Third: It’s a jungle or perhaps a desert out there, and barring a
horse your only friend is your shadow. Fourth: You can parley with a
major villain, but beware of spear carriers. Fifth: Violence is
continuous, and the absence of gunfire can only mean that an even
greater explosion is due in a few minutes. Do these insights reflect
the world in which we live? Sadly, they probably do. We have all by now
earned our moral ambiguity. The essential American soul may not be
hard, isolate, stoic or a killer, but more than ever, it wishes it were." Haunting words, and almost too true.

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