INTO THE SUNSET
by Michael Chasin
The western was the genre of that new form of entertainment—the movies.
White cowboy hats and black cowboy hats made it easy for audiences to distinguish between heroes and villains in silent films.
The advent of sound reduced the number of westerns, but it remained a staple into the late sixties.
Then, in congruence with that time, a sub-genre emerged, the revisionist western.
Films such as Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid exposed legends of the west as false, while the superb Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here mocked the mythology of the west itself.
Since this debunking, the western has made rarer and rarer appearances.
Debunking aside, it would seem that in today’s fast paced, complex world, audiences would crave simple morality plays set against the western’s vast, open spaces.
But perhaps because of that very simplicity of tale—audiences may find the genre false—or at least not exciting or relevant—to the lives they lead today.
After thousands of westerns—in both film and television—there is little new about the western story environment, one that—by its own rules—must be absent of technology.
(This is opposed to the detective genre, which can evolve with the times, such as in the CSI franchise.)
As jaded Pat Garrett said in the film, it feels like times have changed…
It feels like the western has, to borrow its own metaphor, ridden into the sunset.