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The Western Genre: An Analysis Of Its History And Rise And Fall As A Genre

935 words - 4 pages

It was obvious to filmmakers that the Westerns genre could not continue to be successful without a change in the film conventions of the genre. Audiences had gone through the phase of the moral hero saving the town from corrupted outlaws. They needed something to satisfy their
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pleasure, so more codes needed to be bent. Italian filmmakers began to create westerns that would become known as the Spaghetti Westerns, also known as Anti-Myth Westerns. These westerns would challenge the morals of the protagonist and bend the conventions of the Classic Western. Additionally, these films would go against the myth of the Wild West, thus the term “Anti-Myth”. Because audiences were facing boredom in the predictability of the Classic Westerns, the Spaghetti Westerns brought the genre a new feel. Cast members who usually played the hero in Classic Westerns became the cold-blooded killers, such as Henry Fonda in Once Upon A Time in the West (1968). Nichols states that directors during this time, like Sergio Leone, took a theme established in Westerns by the 1920s and amplified it to an exceptional degree (Nichols, 2010). It became hard to distinguish the morals of the protagonist, who was never usually a hero in these films. The only way to distinguish one character as the protagonist and the other as an antagonist in these Spaghetti Western films was by having “the films point of view favor the one character over the other” (Varner, 2008). The films also “indulged in great quantities of violence out of the sheer joy of doing so....and violence has a new meaning in Westerns” (Varner, 2008). Violence and morally confused characters were not the only aspect changed in Spaghetti Westerns from Classic Westerns. Sergio Leone also challenges the length of time for a scene without dialogue with the opening scene in Once Upon A Time in the West (1968). This scene is fifteen minutes long of three men waiting for the protagonist to appear, without any dialogue.
After the conventions of the Western genre are bent and used up in the Spaghetti Westerns, there seemed to be nothing left the Western genre could offer. This is what began the fall of the Western genre. Westerns became harder and harder to make interesting and it became more apparent that the Classic Western and Spaghetti Westerns are long gone. During this time,
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filmmakers attempted to revise the Western by flipping the conventions. These films are part of the End-of-the-Cycle Westerns. They made an effort to bring in young actors and to “relive” the Classic Westerns, but failed miserably and resulted into something laughable. Films such as Young Guns (1988) and Silverado (1985) attempted to include teenage audiences to Westerns with young faces...

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