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Old 08-19-2012, 04:53 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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I've been watching this forum for quite a long time and have yet to see many if any threads dealing with the history of the Amercian West. Is it not of interest to Americans anymore? A lot of movies were made about it in the 40s and 50s but since then the subject seems to have faded out of consciousness.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:01 PM
 
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I think it is just a boring topic. The great Western films of the 50's and 60's were a cultural fad of the time and they just ran out of ideas. How many films can you make about the same story? Another explanation might have to do with the fact that the American West is to this day largely unsettled with vast areas of little or no population. Low population means low cultural value for pop culture.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:26 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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It seems to come in waves. After peaking in the late '50's, early '60's, westerns went into a decline period in America, although living on as a popular genre for another decade in Europe with all those Fistfull of Lasagna epics. They experienced a strong American revival in the late '80's, early '90's beginning with the Lonesome Dove mini series which was a huge hit, followed by three well made hit movies, Dances With Wolves, Unforgiven and Tombstone. The Young Guns films were made around this time as well and although not great flmmaking, they were popular.

And as is typical of a revival created by some quality art, it triggered a bunch of imitative crap which killed the interest in the genre again. There was that god awful Wild Wild West movie, numerous Lonesome Dove sequels, prequels and spinoffs, all increasingly worse, and a Magnificent Seven tv series which was a clunker.

Now it seems they are only willing to do remakes. "Three Ten To Yuma" was well reviewed, although I didn't like it much. They remade "True Grit" but the original was vastly superior. And it seems like there is some on the cheap remake of "High Noon" about once every six or seven years.

Westerns could be revived once more, in the same manner as they were before, it will take some really well received book or movie to trigger it.

The west as a historical topic.....we have kicked it around from time to time, was there a specific subject you wished to raise?
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:46 PM
Status: "politicians don't lie to each other" (set 22 hours ago)
 
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I think due to fact that it was such a short period in history and it was over romanticized. Even during the time period we associate with the west, the history was already being caricatured. I think it was over shadowed by the Victorian era which was part of the same period. Lots of western fact and fiction uses the juxtaposition of the culture of the Victorian era and the images of cowboy life or the adventurous trail buster who speaks native languages and the big city newly arrived immigrant toiling in the factory.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:55 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
The west as a historical topic.....we have kicked it around from time to time, was there a specific subject you wished to raise?
No, the relative lack interest was the subject I wished to raise. I'm seeing some good explanations, including yours.
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Old 08-19-2012, 06:06 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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Originally Posted by thriftylefty View Post
I think due to fact that it was such a short period in history and it was over romanticized. Even during the time period we associate with the west, the history was already being caricatured. I think it was over shadowed by the Victorian era which was part of the same period. Lots of western fact and fiction uses the juxtaposition of the culture of the Victorian era and the images of cowboy life or the adventurous trail buster who speaks native languages and the big city newly arrived immigrant toiling in the factory.
Actually the period that seems to hae gotten little attention was the period Lewis and Clark up to the civil war. The only major movie I can think of off-hand that covers it was Jeremiah Johnson and perhaps one about the Mexican American war that I'm not able to recall. There were also a few about the Alamo. Most westerns focus on the post-civil war period of cattle drives and Indian wars. There's a whole era before it that's somewhat flown under the radar. I'm kind of surprised nobody's made something on figures such as Lewis and Clark, John C. Fremont, or Kit Carson. The Taos uprising would also make for a pretty good plot.
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Old 08-19-2012, 06:51 PM
 
Location: The heart of Cascadia
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I would kind of like to see more 'true' Western history done. There's very little pop culture about the history of the Pacific Northwest. Wouldn't a movie about the Hudson Bay Company days, and Fort Astoria and Vancouver be kinda awesome?
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Old 08-19-2012, 07:03 PM
 
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I find the history of the American west very interesting. Part of the problem however, is that most people don't regard it as "history". The ancient world, wars, imperial expansion, the American revolution, etc- to them that's history. The American west they regard simply as cowboys and Indians.
In elementary school one of my sons had to research a period in American history, writing a paper, making posters, etc. My son was not enthused. I suggested he take the topic of the American west. What redblooded American lad wouldn't become interested in that period of history once he started reading about it? He was told he could not pick that topic as it wasn't history.
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Old 08-19-2012, 10:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by CAVA1990 View Post
No, the relative lack interest was the subject I wished to raise. I'm seeing some good explanations, including yours.
It is hard to beat WWII or the Civil War for history geekdom. I would also venture to guess that the history of the West isn't generally considered to be all that controversial in the mind of the general public, so what is there to argue about?
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Old 08-20-2012, 12:46 AM
 
Location: Cushing OK
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With looking at genology, I realized something about the West. It wasn't always the same place. If you were heading out for land to settle in 'the west' in the 1830's, you weren't talking about Oregon or California, but Kansas/Missouri/Iowa. Today we tend to think of the 'west' as the end game post Civil War, and the very long treks across the continent to the other side of the continent, but it was just the last phase.

The first was Kentucky/WVirginia/Tennessee. People moved towards Ohio and Illinious and further north to Pennsulvania before that. Many during the civil war who refugeed out of Missouri, where it was its own mini guerilla civil war, sat the war out in Illinious, and moved on across the northern edge of the plains after rather than south. Each wave of settlement has been its own 'west' with its own unique character and difficulties.

I think to most people 'the west' is a wagon train heading to Oregon. And we have the 'indian problem', meaning that as we now recognize that the pioneers displaced others and we've cannonized the natives as perfect peace loving souls (which they certainly weren't) its hard to praise the pioneer and not deal with displacing peace loving souls.

Of course, pioneers were people who, just like the ones who ran away to Kentucky as soon as they could to find a life of their own in the time before, wanted a new start. Land was the measure which mattered. And the tribes were neither the blood curdling savages of yesteryear or the kumbaya souls of revisionist history, but people who wanted their way of life. We need to toss out the illusions and be able to recognize that it did not make pioneers evil to want a new start and it did not make natives evil or good, just human, to try to keep what they believed to be theirs.

Its a tragedy filled with winners and losers and liars offering treaties (who were not the pioneers but the brokers) and what it sometimes became was a war where innocents died since they were easy to find and a self feeding hatred of someone not like you meant there was no middle ground.

I think we need to lose the agendas before we can truely look at the West for what it was, and admire the grit of some who stuck with a hard life to have a piece of land to call their own *and* the courage of those who fought not to give it to them at the same time. And recognize not all Natives were 'good' and not all settlers were perfect and we should look at all of them as human beings.

And in a time where there is no place you can go to just dissapear and remake yourself, we'll never let go of the legendary west, which is in part true and part publicity, because we all deep down wish we still had a place like that today.
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