The Mass-Western Protagonist Essay example

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In form, The Tall T is a fairly straightforward melodrama, utilizing familiar stock characters such as the ignoble swindler, the naïve woman, the “honorable” bandit leader, and—most importantly—the cowboy hero forced into the role of gunfighter and man of action by desperate circumstances. In these respects, The Tall T, though produced in 1957, is representative of the great mass of simplistic, histrionic films which constituted the majority of the Western genre output during the 1920s through the 1950s; the film is perhaps even an exemplar of the subgenre, as director Budd Boetticher most likely drew upon the most typical of the accumulated conventions of the B-Western for inspiration. Yet the final product does not transcend the subgenre…show more content…
On the ethical plane, the level of this preëminence is such that it manifests itself as a tangible aura—Frank, the bandit leader, is drawn towards Brennan, even coming right out and saying, “I don’t know why I like you, Brennan,” in an unconscious recognition of virtue; the woman implicitly trusts Brennan from the moment he hitches a ride on her stagecoach. As far as physical supremacy is concerned, the gunfighting scenes in the movie are few, but once Brennan finally gets his hands on a gun, the battle is as good as over—Brennan’s marksmanship is clearly superior even to Chingo’s. In sum, once Brennan has been caught up in the dramatic situation of the film, he is unquestionably in control of his fate, even in captivity.

And yet this unquestionable dominance is plausible only with an equally unquestioning credulity in the internal logic of the film; the viewer must exert considerable suspension of disbelief in order for The Tall T to work as it was intended. Such willing involvement is simply acceptance of a genre’s prevailing conventions; Edward Buscombe, in his introduction to The BFI Companion to the Western, notes that “the Western is not merely a milieu or a way of life, but another world, or at least another country” (16). However, the world of the Western is hardly homogeneous and separate; over the years the iconography of the Western has altered,
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