Why Westerns Lost Popularity?
The stories about the Wild West were extremely popular for almost hundred years. The appearance of the earliest western stories date back to the middle of the 19th century. With the invention of cinematography, those stories served as a plot for countless western movies that were warmly received by American public. The huge interest toward westerns in 1920s-60s due to their nation-uniting nature decreased dramatically in 1970s because of change of moods in American society like exploration of space and movements for civil rights.The stories about frontier played a vital role in Americans’ self-identification as a nation. The western movies were perceived as a purely American cultural concept. They can be compared to the samurai movies in Japan, which underlines their cultural uniqueness. For American nation, every new western film, no matter how primitive and not original, was almost sacred (Hoberman).
The stories about Wild West reminded Americans of such core values as honor, honesty, order and real friendship. In fact, the notions of honesty and honor are recurrent in many western plots. For example, the stories “The Robbers and the Widow” and “Butch Cassidy Robs a Payroll Train” both describe their main characters as reliable honest people. In the first story the James brothers honored a Confederate’s widow by giving her money to pay the mortgage. The words: “We don’t never take nothing from a Confederate soldier, nor his widow, neither” (The Robbers And The Widow) show that even though the James brothers were robbers they still were honest and true to their beliefs. The main character of the second story Butch Cassidy was also a man of his word. Even though he robbed a train, he returned the money he owed for the whiskey.
These two stories exemplify high moral standards of Americans, which made them so popular in the country. Nevertheless, no matter how popular westerns were in their Golden Age, they were bound to lose their popularity eventually. It happened in the 70s, but the loss of the viewership started much earlier. Perhaps the first important hit to the popularity of western movies was the Space Race period. It gave rise to the new genre of movies called science fiction, which started to win over viewers. This tendency clearly demonstrated that Americans were fed up with what was happening on Earth, concentrating their minds on the space. It is worth mentioning, that in that period the Space was called the new frontier, hinting at the end of the cowboy era.Moreover, with the beginning of the seventies American society became more self-aware as a nation. After the series of movements for civil rights of various social classes, people started to understand the struggle of the minorities. Naturally, it occurred to many that western movies may be offensive to Native Americans, because they represent Indians as evil savages. An example of that can be found in the story “Wyatt Earp Confronts a Mob.” The story tells about a sheriff who confronted a mob of …