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November 1999, Week 1


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Ed Owens <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 1 Nov 1999 09:03:05 -0500
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Lang Thompson wrote:

> Something much harder to
> evaluate would be a declining sense of "the frontier" but which certainly
> can't be dismissed. And as for current Westerns, TNT has had a fair amount
> of success with its string of Westerns.

I dont know that genres are that static. Looking for the "Great American
Western" of today seems akin to looking for the little boy I once knew in my
adolescent. son. Some of the examples provided only seem to emphasize that
fact--Unforgiven is a far cry from the "traditional" western as the genre
originally came to be defined.

The declining sense of the frontier is the result of the frontier being
redefined, even in the TNT westerns mentioned above. A perfect example would
be Purgatory (where the frontier is actually the line between the living and
the dead). There's also been a turn away from the physical frontiers of cinema
past, the wild west and the outer reaches of space, and towards the electronic
frontiers (Johnny Mnemonic, Lawnmower Man, The Matrix--hey, I never said they
were good...) and the psychological (Fight Club). Many of these new films
share many elements with the "Great American Westerns" (The Matrix even had a
final showdown, complete with tumbleweeds in the form of crumpled newspaper,
and Fight Club ends in a bizarre perversion of the traditional gunfight), to
include archetypal characters and the themes of civilization versus the wild
(in some cases redefined as reality versus...unreality?). Again, I know this
isnt exactly what the original writer was asking, but I think it does play an
important role in tany discussion of the decline (or redefinition) of the

Ed Owens

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