In the article “The Thematic Paradigm” exerted from his book, A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema, Robert Ray provides a description of the two types of heroes depicted in American film: the outlaw hero and the official hero. Although the outlaw hero is more risky and lonely, he cherishes liberty and sovereignty. The official hero on the other hand, generally poses the role of an average ordinary person, claiming an image of a “civilized person.” While the outlaw hero creates an image of a rough-cut person likely to commit a crime, the official hero has a legend perception. In this essay, I will reflect on Ray’s work, along with demonstrating where I observe ideologies and themes.
John Ford’s classic American Western film, Stagecoach (1939) shows many examples of political life and social behavior during it’s time. The plot is about nine travelers onboard a stagecoach from Tonto, Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico Territory. In the beginning, the passengers of the Stagecoach are unfamiliar with each other. However, their relationships grow as they get to know each other during their journey. Each character claims a different social position.
The image created for the outlaw hero is the “natural man.” They are adventurous but also wanderers, and loners. Outlaw heroes are more likely to commit a crime, use weapons and carry guns. The outlaw hero represents self-determination and freedom from conflicts. On the other hand, the official hero is portrayed to be “the civilized” man. He often follows the norms of society, and has typical roles such as a lawyer, teacher, and family man.
Because of the outlaw hero’s definitive elements, society more so identifies with this myth. Ray said, “…the scarcity of mature heroes in American literature and mythology indicated American ideology’s fundamental preference for youth, a quality that came to be associated with the country itself” (p.2). The outlaw hero has childish mannerisms, and the majority of film myths are outlaw heroes, hinting this to be society’s favorite. Adults appreciate the childish potentials of the outlaw hero because it reminds them of their childhood.
A perfect example of an outlaw hero is John Wayne’s character, The Ringo Kid represented in, Stagecoach. After accused of murdering his father and brother, The Ringo Kid skips town to avoid jail. When the sheriff informed the travelers about the rebellion of the Apaches, he stays to provide assistance when he could have simply just gone. Once discovered that the three Plummer boys killed his father and brother, The Ringo Kid pursues retaliation. His courage and honorable forte makes him a hero.
Generally, women and marriage represent civilization. According to Ray, the outlaw hero had an apprehension for civilization. Because women signified the "settled life," the outlaw tradition usually does not affiliate with them. He quotes, “even the “bad” women posed as a threat, since marriage often uncovered the clinging “good” girl...