So, the other weekend, I was in Oakland and met up with the wonderful Ryan F. Macklin from the Internet. Over dinner, he brought up Kenneth Hite‘s analyses of the Western as a genre. Granted, me telling you this is third hand, but the big points I took away were that:

  • the Western is, at its core, about the gun as a civilizing tool, that makes its user inevitably and irrevocably someone outside that civilization,
  • the Western is the national story of this country.

Once you’ve characterized a Western in those terms, you sure do see them everywhere. It’s a particular angle on “power corrupts”, and a particularly American angle. The hero has to ride off into the sunset, because by the very nature of how he has and exercises power, he cannot live in the world that power creates for other people.

But not every story we tell is that kind of story, of course.

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