Today’s discussion is brought to you by Group 10: Alexandra Freda & Keum Joo Bae
The movies for this module are:
Hell’s Hinges (1916)
White Fawn’s Devotion (1910)
True Grit (2010)
3:10 to Yuma (1957)
In Belton’s American Cinema American Culture, Chapter 11 they discuss many aspects of the Western genre. With some of these concepts in mind, consider these questions pertaining to the films we have watched for this module.
1.) With the film Hell’s Hinges in mind discuss the idea of the Western addressing the issue of moral order and conservative reaction to the modernization of society.
2.) In White Fawn’s Devotion do you see the representation of Indians as idealized, sympathetic, or stereotypical? Do you think the portrayal of Indians is informed by the fact that this film was directed by a Native American?
3.) In what ways does Stagecoach address the issue of national identity in the oontext of the Western genre? What did the stagecoach symbolically represent? If you were to analyze the films ending what would you perceive it to mean judging by the material in our chapter and your own personal opinion of the film?
4.) In True Grit how does Mattie’s character transform over the course of the film, and how does it relate to the idea of the Eastern woman becoming the frontierswoman? What are some of the common representational themes involving women in this film in relation to the text?
5.) In 3:10 to Yuma what character archetypes and stereotypes do you find from the Western genre to be evident in this film? How does the landscape inform the events that occur in the film, and what significance does the train and the banker hold in the broader context of the plot historically?
The Indians in White Fawn’s Devotion seemed very stereotypical. They are going to make a child kill her father, one Indian dances around the man in what looks like a half felt parody of a ceremony. None of it seemed like it represented a true culture of real people.
I definitely agree with this! I think that even though a Native American made the film, it is not at all true to their actual culture and lifestyle. It is sad that Hollywood has tainted peoples’ own view of themselves so that they continue a stereotype they should be trying to break.
I totally agree! how can you show someone their culture, and they cant even relate to it. But, people from different cultures is believing what they see because its on tv or in a film. Stereotypes has always made people believe that certain things are true about their life or ” LIFE” in general. You’re completely right, it is tainted.
It is odd that White Fawn’s Devotion was directed by a Native American. But the fact that he is uncredited in the film suggests that there may have been some disagreement between the director and the production studio. I would not be surprised if the studio forced some of the stereotypes into the film.
I think that this is definitely more of a case of the studio wanting something a certain way than, Native Americans believing these stereotypes. The over exaggerations of the cultural misrepresentations seem to go along with the over acting and melodramatic performances. At this time in America the Indian stereotype had been well established, through dime store novels, performances like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and other films. I’m pretty sure the American Indians in this film acted in these stereotype fashions because they knew that’s what people had grown to expect of Indians in performances. I don’t think the Director and the Production Company were not trying to make a cultural break through by making an accurate representation of Native American Lifestyle. They were just trying to make a film that people would go see.
Yes, back in the silent era Directors weren’t considered the auteurs that they are now. We think of directors having this power to create a vision, but perhaps they were more like traffic cops.
The three of you make very good points. You would think someone of the culture, especially the director, would want their film to look as authentic as possible, when it just didn’t. Maybe he really was ok with how it looked because that’s how films were done, but if it was forced by the studio (and I continued to direct a film anyways) I wouldn’t necessarily want my name to be in the credits just because of the scenes I didn’t agree with.
I partially agree. I believe the Native Americans were shown in a stereotypical manner yet at the same time we weren’t allowed to get to know them. Just like when explorers first came to America they only made assumptions about Native Americans based off what they saw briefly. They are seen as ritualistic and barbaric but at the end of the film they understand the misunderstanding and let the man go free. I think this film is good example of the American view of Native Americans.
I think this is a good representation of the Hollywood system then, and now. I think the production companies had a lot more input into what needed to be in the film, and didn’t allow much artistic expression for the Native American director. I think this is still the case in many of today’s films in which the director is essentially in charge of making the producer’s film, rather than the producer financing the director’s film. I remember hearing of instances where directors were furious with their final film because so much was cut out and changed from their original idea (Kevin Smith and his superman script story is a good example). I think in the instance of White Dawn’s Devotion, the producers had a greater impact on how the film was to be made and the audience’s perception. Perhaps the director was hired as a gimmick so the film would seem more authentic to audiences.
Stagecoach addresses the issue of national identity by bringing together a disparate mix of people and puts them in extraordinary situation which serves to highlight all of the different shades of their true character. The prostitute and fugitive are in the end the ones with the most heart and goodness. The drunken doctor even has a moment of greatness delivering a baby. The good married woman comes around to even seeing the goodness in Dallas, although she realizes that even in the rough town of Lordsburg they cannot be acceptable friends. It is a picture of the great American melting pot – people of different backgrounds, abilities, and beliefs working together. The stagecoach represents the vehicle that is building our nation with technology and civilization, building a road from the East to the West. As to the ending, I see Dallas and the Kid’s romantic flight further west as the boundless hope our nation has for itself no matter the circumstances. It is a belief in the future (happily ever after), after the destruction of the past (shootout in the street).
Hell’s Hinges shows that law and religion have no place in the West. Towns advancing in society had churches and lawmen, and in order to further progress across the country parishoners set out to the West. The church is a metaphor for industry coming to towns that preferred to be left alone. People were hesitant to change, and the film shows that people were not willing to accept advances of the time. When a new “company” comes to town, the town goes to hell. It was doing fine before with no moral order. However, I think the end of the film implies that old and new must work hand in hand to achieve a future. The outlaw from Hell’s Hinges walks off with the sister of the parson,which says that immoral people can become moral if they are willing to compromise. Industry and agrarian culture could come together and be successful, instead of imposing upon one another.
The three films Hell’s Hinges, Stage Coach and 3:10 to Yuma pretty much had the similar western concept to all them. Where the male took his place as the traditional cowboy in some way or another towards the culprit. The wives at that time had small parts as actors because they were not noticed as important compared to the cowboys who were the most important of the movie.
Mattie comes to town very educated and articulate. In her mind, there is justice in the world. She believes she can find Tom Cheney and talk him in to turning himself in to the law. She doesn’t understand the way of the West and ends up over her head. She tries to look the part and puts on a brave face by buying a horse and accompanying Marshal Cogburn in the search. However, as most Eastern women do, she gets in trouble and is taken by the outlaw. She must be saved by the Marshal and Texas Ranger. The representation of women is pretty stereotypical. It’s cute that Mattie is trying to fit in but she can’t handle the actual environment and situtations of the West. She has to be saved by the male characters, but they praise her for her help. Mattie is strong in that she forces her way into the mission to capture Tom Cheney but almost gets herself killed by a rattlesnake. She becomes the damsel in distress that is so prominent in Westerns.
I don’t see Mattie as a damsel in distress when she is captured or after she is bitten by the rattlesnake. The damsel in distress is typically a secondary character and completely helpless. Mattie is always the main character of the film even when she is in danger. She begins the film feeling invincible and her capture and loss of her arm are the ways that she learned her own mortality.
I agree with Chris, Mattie is not a Damsel in distress, she is the main Character of this film that, does on occasion need help but she sets out to bring Justice to Cheney and she does, she is the one to pull the trigger and kill him. In this scene she rescues LeBoeuf who has been knocked unconscious. Mattie is anything but typical, for a young girl in a Western.
If you look at it in the same way Meg does in the animated Hercules film, Mattie is certainly a damsel and she is in distress in certain scenes. However, I do agree with Chris and Nicholas in that it doesn’t fit with the stereotypical “Damsel in Distress” characters that you see in films, so I wouldn’t consider her to be one either.
I don’t believe that the overall view of women in the film, in Mattie’s case, can be looked at as stereotypical. I say this because of 2 things. First, she is a very strong willed and willing to get in there and get her hands dirty with with the Marshal and Ranger, which I personally don’t believe to be typical. Second, she is still a child (which I think makes my first point stronger), and if her character was to be replaced with a boy of the same age, in a movie, I would still expect him to get captured and need to be saved by the Ranger and and Marshal, so I don’t think that should be able to be considered stereotypical as well.
I agree. Mattie begins as such a strong young woman. Despite her age she is smart is enough to take care of grown up affairs. This shows the evolution of women. She even describes her own mother as sort of an air head saying she can’t even spell. Mattie isn’t trying to be like her mother by handling business independently. Yet she isn’t ready for the world she jumped into and still needs the help of male character. I take it as social commentary on how men view women’s evolving role in society.
I agree that Mattie represents a very non-stereotypical female in True Grit. A young girl like her would rarely be seen in such an independent role and having such an impact in the pursuit of an outlaw. I think when comparing Mattie to the role of women of the time it’s important to recognize that she is a young girl. As Alex pointed out, many of her antics would be passable if her character was a young boy.
Comparing with regular westerns White Fawns Devotion and True Grit are considered against the norm of westerns because of White Fawns Devotion way of showing less drastic adventure then the other three films and of course for the purpose of the film being silent. True Grit was trying to portray a more comedic side of a western rather than the other four films shown in this module.
I thought the Indians in White Fawn’s Devotion were stereotypical which baffles me because the Indians in the film behaved like Indians in American films. I wonder how many films it took to convince the director and others of how Indians were really like? Or if they were told. I’m sure some sort of outside influence played into the production.
I think that Native Americans have been oppressed and depicted in a very stereotypical in most Hollywood cinema. Until such films like Dances With Wolves (1990), Native Americans in film were all like the Indians in Neverland in Disney’s Peter Pan. I think that its even taking a step back with the release of the Lone Ranger (2013) which is also was by Disney. I really think that the depiction of Native Americans in cinema is one of the biggest way that whites can oppress the native people of America. Without more positive representations of Native Americans in media, than they will be considered as inferior.
I saw the transformation of Mattie as a subtle one. Mattie always had the no-nonsense attitude/spunk and it grows the more she is with Rooster. It seems like she belongs out in the West.
I have always gotten that impression to. I found that it really apparent in the remake compared to the original. In the original while she is has a spunk to her, she still has the damsel in distress stereotype that isnt apparent at all in the remake.
That’s an interesting reflection on how women are portrayed in cinema through the ages.
Answer: Morality is heavily emphasized with the good guys always upholding order in the society, while the bad guys strive to break the boundaries and pursue their own desires. All modernizations of society are seen as positive growth which will benefit and create wealth.
Answer: I wouldn’t say idealized, but definitely more sympathetic than what viewers are used to. I think the portrayal of Native Americans is stronger since the directed is a Native American, because the film offers a more developed insight which focuses on the details in their culture and beliefs.
Answer: “Stagecoach” is interesting because it uses a ride through the lands and constant threat of Geronimo to formulate diverse characters who are symbolize different mentalities of individuals in the western genre. Each character carries their own perspective bring moral drama and commentary to the film. In my mind the stagecoach represents America and how we’re both powerful and self-destructive with our colliding views and beliefs. How greed is destroying society.
Answer: Mattie turns from being a girl who made hasty decisions, driven by her need for revenge, to a young woman who could really hold her own in the wilderness amongst the Deputy Marshall. It relates to the idea of the Eastern woman becoming the frontierswoman by presenting a protagonist who undergoes the change herself. She matures and learns to live out in the harsh lands. Common representational themes in the film in relation to the text are women who are property and must obey their husbands.
Answer: There’s the typically present “man against injustice” archetype as a father fights to get a robber onto a train, proving himself as a man. There’s the antagonist whose morally unjust, and takes what he can get form whomever. The landscape paints a portrait of constant struggle and change, while the significance of the train and the banker holds context of modernization. Advancements and growth being made in the west, due to achievements like the locomotive.
3.) In what ways does Stagecoach address the issue of national identity in the oontext of the Western genre?
I think Ringo Kid is the most obvious of symbols in ‘Stagecoach.’ He is a young representative of an ideal frontier society. One of masculinity, authority, and tradition. Dallas seems to represent values of civilization and domestication, as she is the object of Ringo’s affection.
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