Name of Professor Introduction The traditional Western cinema is often characterized by gender biased themes. Film heroics are often attributed to the male protagonists, while supplementary roles are given to female leads…
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Two of the most prominent filmmakers in Western cinema, John Ford and Sergio Leone, exhibit indirect desires to deviate from traditional gender stereotypes. This essay analyzes how two Western films, namely, Stagecoach and Once upon a Time in the West represent gender and masculinity, and how they embody traditional American society. Stagecoach by John Ford John Ford often elaborates the gender stereotypes of Western films. Disgraced women, like Dallas, are portrayed to be detached from the compassionate, encouraging, and nurturing ideals of family life, whereas wives and mothers usually endure the difficulties of life on the American frontier. They do so not as cultured, urbane Easterners, but as antagonistic women who surprise their men. The male protagonists of Ford also hold civilizing ideologies and exhibit gentleness. The most praiseworthy heroes of Ford also show decorum and dedication to domestic life not usually identified with the Western genre (Grant 10). Conforming to the sense of Victorian culture, masculinity in Ford’s films who grieve for loved ones and deceased wives exhibit a higher ability to value the living and to make a difference in the world (Pearson 23). Regardless of their gender, the characters of Ford usually confront the social, economic, and emotional outcomes of the absence of their family, but Stagecoach indicates that these effects can be especially damaging for a female. At some point in the stagecoach passage to Lordsburg, the town-whore Dallas marches in the moonlight. The Ringo Kid, played by John Wayne, goes after her. He tells her that Apache captures wanderers. “I guess you don’t know how it feels to lose your own folks,” (Studlar & Bernstein 53) he tells her as he tries to explain the reason for his journey to Lordsburg. Dallas narrates how her parents died “in a massacre in the Superstition Mountains” (Studlar & Bernstein 53). He answers, “That’s tough, especially on a girl” (Studlar & Bernstein 53). The sexually naive Ringo, locked up for a long time, does not know that Dallas is a whore. In this particular scene, the viewers are given the chance to understand the sad acceptance reflected on Dallas’s statement (Grant 15): “You have to live, no matter what happens.” Dallas’s disclosures of the slaughter that killed her parents and denied her of a family inform the viewers of the situations that have pushed her into prostitution. Her reputation as a social recluse is shown in the beginning when she was carried away by the town’s Law and Order League. Along the voyage, she is silently avoided by other, more reputable travelers, as well as Mrs. Mallory, the wife of the soldier. Her anxiety, shame, and injured boldness show that she is sexually defiant due to economic need instead of personal liking. But situations also compel Dallas to carry out the task of a nurse for the child of Mrs. Mallory. It is the compassionate character of Dallas that strengthens Ringo’s romantic sentiment. Film scholars have correctly discerned that the “shots of her [Dallas] cradling Lucy’s baby… are quite transgressive, since prostitutes are outside the family and the law” (Cook 44). For Ringo, Dallas is “the kind of girl a man wants to marry” (Cook 44), and the movie bears out his assessment of her instead of society’s judgment. As is widely observed, Ford’s compassion is for outsiders, regardless of their gender, and Stagecoach is not the only Western movie of Ford to grant
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