It is cheesy, it is lame, it is unlikely, it is insane… it is a western.
Boring or just so far-fetched you can’t like it at all, seems westerns tend to specialize in stupidity at times. We’ve all seen those. But there’s something… something about a good western…
Something intriguing that pulls even the scoffer toward it a little, a fascination with this breed of storyline. I have been trying to understand this fascination ever since the first time I found myself rather stuck to a plasma screen, watching a dude with a tan hat and a black horse chase down a nasty killer. What is within the long gone imaginary world that the western inhabits that could make me want to be there so badly, in spite of how much I always hear them ridiculed?
You know what? I think they are ridiculed especially by people who know those epic westerns have a corner on the market of plotlines. They have some material that other writers with other settings don’t come by so easily. And the funny thing about it is that a western is very restrictive, the material very limited. The story almost absolutely has to be set in the American West (on a rare occasion, Australia or Africa). It almost absolutely has to be set in the nineteenth century. If one wants to be realistic, there are only so many places and people and events they can utilize, and the most advanced technology they are allowed to use is an ivory-handled Colt.
But for any writer looking to grab the attention and affection of the audience, the upsides are astounding. In this ready made wilderness of opportunity, where there is no law and no civilization, human nature is at its rawest. Man stands alone, is so free from restraint as to show his bare soul through his actions. Oceans of character seperate the wheat from the chaff and the wolves from the sheep by the sheer emptiness of the land. Women are at the mercy of the elements and the men around them, the ever-fixed mirror of the state of mankind. Who will protect and who will exploit? Who will cheat and who will do right? You know the rest of the story.
What the actors and the screenwriters and the directors were able to create is something that makes me jealous just thinking about it. The stories predictable? Perhaps. The plotlines repeatable? You may say so. But I envy the writers of The Searchers, Silverado, Chisholm, Tombstone, Big Jake, The War Wagon, Gunsmoke and Bonanza. I really do. Laugh if you like, I am about to make a profound and convicting statement with severe implications…
I like westerns. They are not my favorite genre, but I do like them. So there. I am pegged and pidgeon-holed and will likely be placed in a neat little box for this statement but I don’t care. I like them. Ha ha hum.