“Go ahead. Make my day.”
–Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in Sudden Impact
The classic, John Wayne-style Western is out of fashion these days.
Or is it?
I believe it’s more alive than ever.
Have you seen the John Wick movies? Those are Westerns.
Anything with Dwayne Johnson in it, or Vin Diesel or Jason Statham, is a Western. We could say the same about Clint Eastwood back in the day, either as the Man with No Name, or Josey Wales or Dirty Harry. Or Steve McQueen. Or back farther to John Wayne or Gary Cooper or Alan Ladd. Any movie that Bogey was in, whether he played a gangster or a private eye, was a Western. Assassin’s Creed is a Western. Virtually every videogame is a Western.
What is a Western anyway?
It starts with a solitary character (or sometimes, as in The Wild Bunch or Butch Cassidy or Unforgiven) a small band.
This character possesses skills with a gun or sword. (Did I say that all samurai movies are Westerns?)
This character, our Western hero, is dark. He is embittered. Something terrible has happened to him in the past – a war, a love affair, prison, childhood – and he has withdrawn from human society.. He has withdrawn into himself.
Max Max is a Western, The Book of Eli is a Western, as are all the X-Men movies, all post-apocalyptic movies, including zombie epics. Every mutant story is a Western.
A Western hero lives by his own code. Is he a detective? A cowboy? A gangster? A mutant? Does he pilot the Millennium Falcon? This code may possess nobility or it may be totally self-serving, but it is his alone and he lives by it. He is a law unto himself and because of his skills of violence, he can make this work.
What about the hero’s world? What’s the landscape? What are the politics?
Ronin Japan—the sixteenth and seventeenth century–is a Western landscape. Zombie Apocalypse is. The untamed American West. Los Angeles in the 30s. Chicago or New York any time. Stalingrad in World War II. Lawless, vast spaces, pitiless. The nearest marshal is always three days’ ride away. The hero lives in a world of vast vistas and imminent violence.
Why am I digressing to the subject of the Western movie?
Because the Western hero is the Warrior Archetype par excellence.
He’s a gunslinger. A figure of violence, who resorts to violence to solve problems. His world view is despair. His primary emotion is rage. In every scene, even the most gentle, the Western hero embodies repressed rage. Ask any casting director: the indispensable attribute of any movie hero is the ability to project fury. Robert de Niro. Stallone. Schwarzenegger. Even such “nice guy” presences as Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Kevin Costner, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, even Keanu Reeves, have had to evolve cinematically into bad hombres, or at least become capable of credibly playing such characters onscreen.
Because the Warrior Archetype plays.
Our character of Telamon is a Western hero.
He’s solitary. He lives by a code. He is a master of violence. His worldview is one of despair. He is searching. He moves on.
Know who else is a Western hero?
You and me.
If you’ve been watching this series and are still with us, you embody the Warrior Archetype, i.e. the Western hero.
I don’t say this in necessarily a good sense.
It’s not necessarily a compliment, including when I apply it to myself.
The issues that torment you and me arise from being stuck in that archetype. We want stories about that Archetype because they touch us where we live and shed light, hopefully, upon the dilemma that our archetype embodies.
A long way from ancient Sparta, isn’t it?
Or is it?
More on this in the next episode.
Can we women be warrior archetypes (not Wonderwoman, of course)? Would we even want to be one, let alone write about one? I don’t think I could even if I tried.
Women are the perfect archetype for warriors to be. We don’t need to use violence to be considered a warrior. Everyday women battle with various issues in the society. goldbee.com
Me as a western hero, as portrayed to my wife:
Me: Hoisting up my britches: “They’s a new sheriff in town.”
My wife: “Whatever, Tex. Are you planning on mowing the lawn any time soon, or were you thinking of bringing in a herd of sheep?”
Book of Eli:
1) Great soundtrack: https://youtu.be/xeQzGagYO_E?t=10
2) I see a plot point in parallel between Book of Eli and A Man at Arms, but keeping it to myself.
Clint Eastwood is getting mentioned a couple times; “The Outlaw Josey Wales” embodies a lot of the story elements being described here. Solitary, dark, trauma in the past, touched by love (or at least compassion), and takes a moral stand.
Can a woman be or write about a warrior archetype (not Wonderwoman, of course)? I don’t think I could even if I tried.
What leapt to mind when I read your post was, “What is scarier to find in the woods alone? A male bear, or a mother bear with cubs?”
I have seen my own wife demonstrate the will of a Warrior numerous times in our married lives–without violence–but the possibility of violence is apparent beneath the veneer of domestication. When someone or something she loves is threatened…whoa be the violator.
I have served with women overseas. In fact, one young lady is a perfect example. Here in Washington, our high schools have a program called “Running Start” in which high school students attend a community college for a few classes in their junior/senior years. The result is the graduate from HS with an Associates Degree in hand.
Ashley, came to my unit as a 19 year old Cadet in ROTC, but she was a junior at the UW. We had to do training for state active duty, which in the Guard usually includes riot control tactics. I was the commander, watching our Soldiers get into large formations, and ‘stomp and drag’ across this large field. I remember being dumbstruck at how this very cute (I don’t mean this disparagingly, more to point out her age), led our unit like Tom Brady. She was easily the best field commander on the ground that day.
Fast forward two years, and we are mobilized for Afghanistan. Ashely is still 20, but is now a detachment commander and at 1LT. She turned 21 in theater. Her actions overseas were exceptional. Her Soldiers adored her, and she performed better than all of her peers.
The last week in theater, we had a little ‘party’ in one of the large fest tents on Baghram. Videos were shown, we did a mini-talent show, war stories were told–it was a great time. Ashley got up and did a song and dance routine with another Soldier that was both hilarious and demonstrated incredible artistic talent.
I thought at the time was an amazing woman Ashley was. When the circumstances required it, she was a steely-eyed killer/warrior, and yet she never lost her femininity. She could be goofy, laugh at herself (she’s the type of person who can never get a joke out because she begins to laugh before the punchline…a trait I always find incredibly attractive in men and women), make others laugh, sing, dance, and be a beautiful woman all in the same person. She contained multitudes.
Here’s a not-so-popular concept in today’s civilized socieety: maybe some problems are best solved by violence?
Dirty Harry: a policeman who deals with drug dealers and assorted scum. Josey Wales; a dirt farmer attacked and family killed, Holden-Borgnine-Johnson, et all in the Wild Bunch: thieves (OK, not a plus!) who rose to the occasion in defending Angel and killing a corrupt general. And let me add Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs; an academic who defends his wife after she’s raped. To quote Maj Douglas Zembiec, USMC, ‘The Lion of Fallujah.” KIA 2007. “Killing is not wrong if it’s for a purpose, if it’s to keep your nation free or protect your buddy.”
What ties them all together? They’re in a situation where the opponent is trying to kill them, and negotiation is not a serious option.Some people just don’t listen to reason, and society needs the Dirty Harry’s, the Col Jessup’s, and the Maj Zembeic’s to do what most can not/will not.
Maybe that’s why these western heroes are dark and brooding, for as George Orwell so eloquently wrote: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”
And yes, why wouldn’t a woman respond similarly if they were threatened? Lots of women enlisted in the Marine Corps and Army after 9/11 in the same patriotic fervor that brought my son and millions of others into the recruiting stations. Good for every one of them!
What an amazing review. I really appreciate the way you’re explaining all the details of Digression and the hero of western America.
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I think women can be warrior archetypes, with a slight modification to what Steven said.
Women may not necessarily be the master of (physical) violence, but more so the master of destruction, disillusion, and rebirth; which are all forms of violence.
For me, the warrior archetype outwardly displays the worldview of despair only as a mask that is worn to hide the worldview of unrequited love.
I hope to see more from you, thank you for sharing!
I love to know what’s coming next in upcoming episodes
Not that women are afraid of being threatened but they do not want to deal with violence first, they will prioritize other solutions that do not use violence. Only when they are pushed too hard will they fight
Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading your blog. It was so informative, Keep it up.
Thanks for a great read. Nothing more i like then this blog while reading my coffee 🙂
Women are not afraid of being threatened. first thing is that women are not going to start violence. Instead, they will prefer another alternative to avoid violence. Women fight when situations go worst. As a professional writer working in the organization giving nursing essay writing services, there is not a single complaint come against in organization regarding women
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