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Throughout history Americans have had a fascination with unexplored uncharted and untamed territory Never has this been so pronounced as with the American west Stories of bravery new peoples cultures and strange new lands have enchanted Americans for nearly two centuries This attraction is strikingly prominent in the film history of the west Yet despite its early and lasting popularity the Western has not until recent years attracted the attention of interpretive critics Many critics viewed Westerns as an escapist immature medium Discussions of Westerns characterized the genre as endlessly repetitive utterly simple in form and naive in its attitudes Cook 64 However since the late 1960s Westerns have been recognized similar to other forms of popular culture as a useful barometer of shifting currents in American society and culture Etulain 3 The development of the western film genre in American film culture has progressed in manner style and ideology and can be tracked in association with the political societal and cultural trends of the last 90 years The first westerns were the same as many other first films merely scientific recordings of actual events such as wild west shows and rodeos The first Western with any content was The Great Train Robbery 1903 While still very primitive it gave much of the stock form to westerns that exists today It established the essential formula of crime pursuit showdown and justice and within its ten minute running span it included in addition to the train robbery itself elements of fisticuffs horseback pursuit and gunplay along with suggestions of small child appeal and probably the first introduction of that clich to be the saloon bullies forcing a dude into a dance Everson 15 As train robberies and similar crimes were not uncommon in the early nineteen hundreds The Great Train Robbery was immensely popular and even introduced a social consciousness to film Etulain 8 Many of the Westerns
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