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Myth of the WesternNew Perspectives on Hollywood's Frontier Narrative$
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Matthew Carter

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748685585

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748685585.001.0001

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(p.77) 2. A Fine Good Place to be
Myth of the Western

Matthew Carter

Edinburgh University Press

The second chapter raises issues about the structuring role played by race in both the myth of the West and the Western. The genre's portrayal of Native Americans is rethought in this section, arguing for the existence of a more complex consideration than is often attributed to the classical Western. These arguments are taken up in brief discussion of some of the so-called pro-Indian Westerns of the 1950s. These are discussed alongside more contemporary films that boast sympathetic portrayals of Native Americans. The purpose is not to refute racist charges against the Western, but to provide a counter-argument to the evolutionary paradigms that identify socially progressive patterns in the genre's portrayal of the Native American from classical to revisionist texts. The chapter then considers John Ford's The Searchers’ complex depiction of Native Americans, the Anglo-American hero, and the pioneer community that he nominally protects. Developing some of the arguments outlined in the first chapter, the reading suggests that, along with all its flaws, The Searchers foregrounds unsettling aspects of the history of frontier settlement and offers a powerful critique of the myth of the West, making it clear that the myth's values – and those who embody them – are beyond redemption.

Keywords:   Race, Native Americans, Classical Western, Revisionist Western, Anglo-Americans, History

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