David at GreenCine points to Patrick Walsh’s insightful discussion of teaching Western films in Germany. Walsh’s stated intention was to use the Western to “guide [his] students toward a consideration of American manhood,” but students instead identified the Western with George W. Bush’s “cowboy” persona and instead used the course to think about “American self-sanctioned violence.”
Also interesting that “anti-heroes” from such films as The Wild Bunch and Fistful of Dollars also failed to appeal given that the men in these films still used violence to achieve their goals, even if they did so in ways that weren’t sanctioned by the dominant culture. Also interesting that Blazing Saddles, a film that tears at the seams of the Western myth, was among the students’ favorites.
I mention this article because I find the students’ reading “against the grain” to be rather insightful, but also because I want to remind myself to return to Flow, the very cool online journal that published the article.