Stagecoach

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Genres: The Western
WHAT IS GENRE?

A category of artistic composition, as in music, film, or literature,
characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter – New
Oxford American Dictionary

Organized categories of texts


Exist in academic, popular and industry discourse
Put into categories by:




Subject matter
Conventions
Themes
Narrative
FUNCTIONS OF GENRES
Leads the audience to interpret texts in
particular ways
 Lets viewers know what to expect
 Gives creators ideas about how to put pieces
together
 Industry strategy of appealing to specific
audiences

EXAMPLES OF GENRE
Science Fiction
 Horror
 War
 Epics/Historical
 Action/Adventure
 Drama
 Comedy
 Crime/Gangster
 Musicals

Sub genres:
-Biopics
-Detective/Mystery
-Disaster
-Fantasy
-Film Noir
-Melodramas
-Sports
-Supernatural
-Thriller/Suspense
THE WESTERN GENRE

Western Genre Conventions
 Historical
 Plot
Basis
Elements/Themes
 Iconography
HISTORICAL BASIS

The Western is an American genre, which
interprets and represents its history to itself
 Set
approximately between 1860 – 1910
 Period of American western expansion
 Popular characters based on actual individuals:
Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickok
THE WESTERN’S PLOT ELEMENTS/THEMES

Central Theme: The Binary of Civilization and
Savagery/Lawlessness
 East
vs. West
 Culture vs. Nature
 Community vs. Individual
 Settlers vs. “Indians”
 Train vs. Horse

Westerns as American mythology
 Foundational
myth – the forging of a nation
WESTERN PLOT ELEMENTS/THEMES

Patterns of action
The nomadic Westerner comes to a town, purges it of
its savage elements, and leaves
 A group of gunmen are hired to defend villagers from
bandits
 Revenge Plots


Narrative Tropes
The climactic gunfight
 Indian attacks
 The cavalry rescue

THE TRADITIONAL WESTERN HERO
 In
between position: mediates between civilization
and the lawless frontier
 Marginalized figure outside of the community
 Commonly motivated by revenge and/or sense of
justice
 Adheres to a code
Stagecoach
WESTERN ICONOGRAPHY: MISE-EN-SCENE

Geography
 An
actual place: the American West
 The landscape: deserts, mountains, rivers,
Monument Valley
 Symbolic: wilderness as a site of savagery
 The frontier: the border of civilization and
lawlessness
WESTERN ICONOGRAPHY: MISE-EN-SCENE
WESTERN ICONOGRAPHY/MISE-EN-SCENE
WESTERN ICONOGRAPHY/MISE-EN-SCENE
GENRE CYCLES
Genres are neither static nor fixed; they
undergo change over time with each new film
either adding to the tradition or modifying it.
 Western a popular genre of
B movie fare since 1903
 Classical Phase:

 Stagecoach
 Elevates
(John Ford, 1939)
the Western to A status
 Solidifies conventional tropes
GENRE CYCLES

Post-war Phase
 High
Noon (Frank Zinnemann, 1952)
 Plot
takes place in “real time”
 Denies the usual generic pleasures
 Kane as an individual with a code
 Film editing/framing emphasizes
the isolation of the hero
GENRE CYCLES

Widescreen Westerns
 The
Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
Emphasizes the widescreen landscape
 More complex protagonist
 The salient techniques of
style: cinematography

GENRE CYCLES

The Revisionist Western
 The
Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
GENRE CYCLES

‘Spaghetti’ Westerns
A
Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)
 For A Few Dollars More (Leone, 1965)
 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Leone, 1966)
GENRE MIXING

Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961)
 Jidaigeki
genre
 Influenced by the films
of John Ford
 Loosely based on Dashiell
Hammet’s Red Harvest (1929)
 Basis for A Fistful of Dollars &
Last Man Standing (Walter Hill, 1996)
GENRE MIXING: SCIENCE FICTION & THE
WESTERN

Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)

Influenced by the films of John Ford and Akira
Kurosawa: The Searchers & The Hidden Fortress
Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973)
 Outland (Peter Hyams, 1981)



Star Trek (1966-1969)


Based on High Noon
“Wagon train to the stars”
Firefly (Whedon, 2002)
GENRE MIXING

Post-apocalyptic Western
 Mad
Max 2: The Road Warrior (George Miller, 1981)
GENRE MIXING

Science Fiction/Horror
 Alien

(Ridley Scott, 1979)
Science Fiction/Film Noir
 Blade

Runner (Scott, 1982)
Science Fiction/War
 Starship
Troopers
(Paul Verhoeven, 1997)

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