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The Fort Apache vs the Shootist, Essay Example

Pages: 7

Words: 1896

Essay

The western genre deals with the invariably changing civilization that comprises of the spectrum between individuals from the violence era all the way to that of family values.[1] A unique portrayal of a western genre movie would be a story about the undeniable fate of a doomed calvary despite its officer’s valiant yet futile actions to rescue his own men from the remorseless Indians. As a follow up, this story tells the tale of an old gunman who time and again encounters conflicts with young generations of pitiless cowboys and outlaws. The Fort Apache  (1948) and The Shootist (1976) are both outstanding examples of popular western movies. Despite the fact that these two movies aim to portray what American western culture dealt with, there are both similarities and differences between these two films. Such similarities within The Fort Apache and The Shootist include (but are not limited to) kinds of themes, politics, characterizations, and senses of realism.

Although The Fort Apache contains a vast variety of themes throughout the film, leadership and heroism are among those that stand out. This film is set in the Wild West across the time period of Indian Wars and the doomed cavalry. The points in the film where heroism is best exemplified in the manner through which the cavalry as a whole is willing to lay down their lives for a cause (instigating a war with the Indians) they consider both honorable and necessary. On the other hand, leadership is epitomized when the calvary’s captain single-handedly takes it upon himself to lead his troops into war.

In opposition to The Fort Apaches themes, The Shootists themes are more centered on an aging gunfighter and on the young outlaws from Carson City, Nevada. On that note, both films depict outlaws in very different manners. In The Shootist, an outlaw is seen as someone who is hated by the town’s individuals because of his or her destructive and violent lifestyle. More than often, this individual is looked upon by his community, or town, due to the methods and his approach to making a living all while being respected for his capability to kill. The Fort Apache has a distinct way of looking at outcasts. Whereas in The Shootist outcasts all come from the towns, The Apaches outcasts are the Indians. Moreover, the imperative difference between outlaws in these two films is that The Fort Apache does not have any respect for the Indians, as opposed to the kind of respect that the old gunman has for them in The Shootist.

In The Shootist, John Wayne stars as John Bernard. This character plays the role of an aging western cowboy who has far-outlived his own generation and is facing certain death. The son in the film considers Mr. Bernard to be a brave, respectable, and honorable man whilst the sheriff dislikes him because he believes him to be nothing more than a killer. In addition to that, the town does not necessarily like Mr. Bernard because of the manner in which he kills without a conscience. This central theme of The Fort Apache is different from that of The Shootist because the concepts of 1948 are based on the volatile Indians and the morality of the officers who are about to confront the in battle. In this film, the officers are devastated by their own thoughts caused by the resolve of their general who is only focused on starting a war and wiping out the majority, if not all, of Native Americans. Furthermore, in The Fort Apaches second general in command speaks the voice of morality, thinking that it is not justified to instigate a war due to political incentives.

Both films display crystal clear indications of racism directed towards minorities within the communities that they reside in. For example, in The Fort Apache, the calvary’s officer is constantly making immoral and rude remarks about the Indians. In addition, the Western town of Nevada dislikes and Indians as well and depicts them as social outcasts. It was proven in The Fort Apache that western movies throughout 1948 often used a soft delivery of war, Indians, and changes of characterizations throughout the transformation of the Wild West. Also, movies made in the 1940s and movies released after 1970 contained similarities to that of 1948 in the manner through which the films addressed morality, strength, and the Civil Rights movement.[2]

In every part of the 1940s, many Civil Rights organizations were fighting for equal rights to prevail in all places at all times. It was during this time period that Westerners began to adopt themes that included both heroes and villains fighting for one same cause: the Civil Rights of farmers, women, Indians, and African Americans. The Civil Rights Movement’s impacts are clearly portrayed in both The Fort Apache and The Shootist through the actions carried out by the society in which these individuals live in. Many movies used subliminal messages to show the kind of mistreatment that many individuals had to endure each and every day. For example, The Shootists directors attempted to use the dialogue in the film to directly address the unjust treatment of Indians in various situations. The movie suggested that manner in which Indians were treated throughout the time period of the Civil War was a matter that should be dealt with immediately. Slowly but surely, these subliminal messages got their point across. The Apache included many subliminal messages about civil rights as well. John Wayne was specifically chosen as a lead actor in this film to play the role of the commission officer of the United States that talks about equal rights for Indians for a reason. In addition, the cavalry captain and the cavalry regiment leader are both seen throughout the film discussing the matter of rights for Native American tribes. The characterizations in these two movies differ in the manner through which the community addresses both villains and heroes in very distinct methods.

Shockingly, the idea of an outlaw in The Shootist is applauded because it shows that an individual has dignity for living with death around the corner. Also, being an outlaw shows the most ruthless person in the times of Western transformation. In contrast, however, the movies put out in the 1940s and 1950s placed a bad name on outlaws, showing how immoral they were and how American society should rise above all outlaws with both human and dignity. Another change came in the 1970s, however: outlaws were glorified once more. This was depicted in movies such as The Outlaw Josey Wells, where the glorification of an outlaw is still a cult classic today. On another note, in The Shootist, the outlaw is continuously criticized and scorned at by the individuals residing within the town. These people are said to be waiting for the outcast to die. In contrast, the outlaws in The Apache are the Indians (not a towns person), and the hero who defends their equal rights in the American Calvary officer. This is the pivotal point where the notion of morality versus realism first takes place.

A primary purpose of both films (The Fort Apache and The Shootist) is putting morality themes against realism themes. For example, the officer’s morality in The Fort Apache in killing the Indians is completely distinct from that of an average human being. In both eras, western movies represent outlaws in different manners, but essentially the same idea. In The Apache, the outlaws are humanized as the Indians, while the racist calvary officer’s primary mission is to demoralize and dehumanize them. In contrast, the outlaw in The Shootist is not at all glorified, yet he still attracts the admiration of many because of the many gun fighting skills that he possesses. The era of the Civil War and the Indian Wars were an excuse for the men of the west to be nothing more than unworthy ruthless killers and gun fighters. Ironically enough, The Apacheportrays American Civil War officers as the true villains. In contrast, The Shootist attempts to indicate that the only one true villain is the gunfighter. In addition to who is the hero/villain in these movies, women’s role in society is also a central theme in these movies.

The own of the Wild West play significant roles in the culture of The Fort Apache and The Shootist. Also, these women roles are looked at differently depending on the time period in which the movie was being filmed. For example, the son’s mother in The Shootist disliked the fact that the gunfighter made a living using a gun. Despite her disliking the gunfighter, however, she kept to herself because she knew her place as a woman in that certain time of the American West. By this, it is exemplified that women were not given many privileges throughout this time period. In the films, women are not portrayed as unsatisfied because of their place in society; it is as if they have come to accept and embrace that idea that their place is unchangeable. A certain scene in The Shootist shows Mr. Bernard  referring to a prostitute as a “lady.”Surprisingly, the respectable son’s mother is also referred to as “lady. This was a small indication that men did not hold women to a very high standard; they were allowed to treat them as they wanted without the woman complaining.[3]Through this, it is easily seen that before the time span of the 1955s and the time span after 1976, western movies had different perspectives as to how they saw women. Prior to 1955, women had no voice in western movies because they were always portrayed as being inferior to men and in distress (needing to be saved). In The Fort Apache, for example, women were shown as meek, pleasing, susceptible, and easily controlled by men. In the 1976 film, The Shootist, however, women were allowed to be more outspoken about their feelings directed towards the gunfighter. In this film, women were shown as strong, smart, educated, and independent inhabitants of society as opposed to their recent societal rank prior to 1955.

The Fort Apache (1948) and The Shootist (1976) are both outstanding examples of popular western movies. Regarding racism, these films have it all. They deal with the mannerisms through which women used to be treated and how they are treated now. In addition to that, the films portray how Indians have been treated in the past and how they are treated today. Despite being very similar in nature, these two films have completely contrasting themes. For anyone looking to understand how the portrayal of equality has evolved in films throughout the ages, The Fort Apache and The Shootist  are a must-see.

Bibliography

AmcTV.Amc Blog: Movie: A Quick Guide to Westerns. Accessed Feb. 12, 2015. Web Feb.b2015.

IMBD. Com.The Shootist”. 1976: Trivia Summary. Accessed February 12, 2015. Web Feb.b2015

McCracken, Janet. “The non-Western of the New West, 1973-75.” Film & History 44.2b(2014): 82+. Academic OneFile. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

The RogerEbert.com.The Shootist: Roger Ebert. Accessed Feb 13, 2015, Web Feb. 2015

The PeopleHistory.com. (2014).The Year of 1948 From the People History. Accessed Feb. 13, 2014. Web Feb. 2015

 

[1] McCracken, Janet. “The non-Western of the New West, 1973-75.” Film & History 44.2 (2014):b82+. Academic OneFile. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

[2] McCracken, Janet. “The non-Western of the New West, 1973-75.” Film & History 44.2 (2014): 82+. Academic OneFile. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

[3] IMBD. Com.The Shootist”. 1976: Trivia Summary. Accessed February 12, 2015. Web Feb. 2015

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