New West


I’m trying to get back into the habit of reading again. During a recent visit to Chicago I made the unfortunate misstep of going into a half price book store and walked out five minutes and five books later. If I’d have stayed a sixth minute, I would have bought a sixth book. Or more. I might have a problem. 

After packing all these books back to Loss Angeles in my luggage, I set about to read them. One was a gift, two were graphic novels and went quickly, so now I’m down to The Dark Tower by Stephen King, and The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx. It was probably not a good idea to try to read both of these books concurrently. I’m having some pretty weird dreams. 

I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot more Westerns lately. Or, at least, stories set against a Western backdrop, even if, like The Dark Tower and Westworld the stories themselves are dystopic sci-fi/fantasy. Is this a reflection of a cultural impulse, I wonder? What does the Western mean to the American mind in the current political landscape that is suddenly making it popular again? Is it a return to our grandparents values? Is it a longing for free range and wide open spaces and larger than life heroes and villains fighting out a clear battle between white-hat good and black-hat evil? Or have we simply awoken to the fact that Superheroes are not going to save us and that the law is wild and the environment unforgiving? 

It seems to me that the contemporary Western is more about the struggle than the victory. The traditional trappings of a Western are window dressing on the question of identity and the nature of reality in America- which, one could argue, is not the same as reality in other parts of the world. 

I have to wonder why trends happen. What collective purpose do they serve? Was there a logic behind the recent obsession with zombies? Some way of dealing with the mindless crowd impulses of social media, maybe? Or with the obsession with vampires before that? The fear that there were people among us set on draining us dry for their own benefit (right at a time of a major recession)? Or, again, with the gritty reboot of every superhero ever? A way of questioning how people with power should answer to the people they protect and what lines they should and should not cross with that power? Do trends end because we find answers to these dilemmas or because the collective attention becomes drawn to a new problem that suddenly seems more pressing?

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 9, 2017.

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