Tag Archives: Westerns

Heroes

The film The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western about a group of gunslingers who selflessly defend a town against enormous odds.

In the 1960 version (starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen), the men fight off bandits in a Mexican village.  In the 2016 version (starring Denzel Washington), they combat a ruthless robber baron in a frontier town.

Demons 

In both versions of the film, the gunfighters are unquestionably heroes – strong, courageous, and expert at their craft.  In each version, however, one man in the group wrestles with demons from his past.

In the 1960 version, the character “Lee” (played by Robert Vaughn of “Man from UNCLE” fame) fears he has lost his nerve.  Haunted by the enemies he has killed, Lee suffers from nightmares.  He drinks.  His hands tremble.  He breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of battle.

In the 2016 version, the character “Goodnight Robicheaux” (played by Ethan Hawke) is a former Confederate marksman who now has difficulty taking aim.  Goodnight sees hallucinations that he fears foretell his death.

Both men worry that they will not be able to perform when called upon to do so, that they will let others down.  Both consider themselves weak and cowardly.

A Different Perspective

But the audience does not view them that way.  The audience feels enormous compassion for these characters.

Both men stumble.  Yet they somehow find the courage to face their fears, in defense of others.  That they are flawed is one reason The Magnificent Seven has such a powerful impact.  Their internal struggles make the film more compelling. Continue reading

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

Good Woman Transforms Outlaw, Part 1 – Intuition and Interpretation

I can help him become a better man. Deep down, he wants to be different. I know it. I can just tell when I look into his eyes.

The things he says and does that hurt me he only does out of fear of losing me. He doesn’t really mean them. He’s a little boy inside. Just wait till he feels secure in our relationship.

You’ll see. He’ll change. I can change him [1].

Why are women so susceptible to this misguided view of relationships? It seems almost a cinematic cliche out of the 40’s and 50’s. Think The Virginian (1943) with Joel McCrea, Angel and the Badman (1947) with John Wayne, Westward the Women (1951) with Robert Taylor, or Shane (1953) with Alan Ladd [2].

Good woman transforms outlaw into law abiding citizen. Women civilize men. The West is won.

What is it about this scenario that appeals so strongly to us? Is it something about the way women are socialized? Can an excess of compassion blind us to reality?

I suspect that there is something else at work, something not nearly so selfless. The appeal rests, I believe, on three bases: intuition, interpretation, and influence.

Intuition

To begin with, there is an attraction by women to the idea of an intuitive capacity on their part, some “special” ability to perceive what others (especially men) cannot.

Traditionally, women have been seen as emotional or intuitive; men, as logical or factual. These days we attribute this to right-brained and left-brained thinking, respectively. It is the principle that “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” [3].

While there is some anatomic basis for this distinction (women, for instance, have a wider corpus callosum uniting the two hemispheres of the brain), there is no reason we can’t be both intuitive and rational.

Women, in other words, are entirely capable of logic. But we’re flattered by the idea that a distinction exists. We want there to be a distinction. Yin and yang. Opposites attract. Intuition is, in some sense, “proof” of our femininity. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Violence Against Women