Myth of the frontier

I keep watch for pieces about the mythology of the American West.

Westerns and cowboys are the American myth, hands down. My neo-pagan friends find meaning in Norse culture, in Celtic culture, in every romanticized period of history except America.

I’m not going to embed this one because it’s so long: How Historians Killed the Western.

"The Western died in the 1970s. It went from the primary genre of Hollywood production, making almost a third of yearly movies at its peak, to a relic of a bygone era requiring revival for new productions. The Western was felled from its high-horse. What murdered it? The direct murderer does not matter, for as one Western about a mistaken murder said, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” The genre was fueled by the American frontier myth, which also propelled American exceptionalism. As the historical theory behind the frontier myth crumbled in the wake of great social upheaval, especially when related to the American Indian Movement, the driver of Westerns died, resulting in the Western’s demise."

Historians notwithstanding, the generation before mine loved cowboy romanticism. Both my parents devoured Zane Grey and other cowboy novels when they were growing up, then graduated to serious history as adults. In the early 1960s my dad watched Westerns—which meant we all watched them, like it or not. I think he liked them, but also Westerns were all that were on all three networks from probably 7 to 10 pm every night. That’s when we watched TV because Dad believed in getting up precisely at 6 am every day, weekends included.

It was the way things were back then.

The way I remember it, Westerns began to give way to police and detective shows after about 1965.

It’s a truism to say fish don’t see the water around them. My chums don’t see cowboy culture because it’s all around us. Europeans see it more clearly. I’m not surprised anymore when my European cousins want to hear about their relationship to people in the Old West.

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