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Westerns and social commentaryThroughout history Americans have had a fascination with unexplored uncharted anduntamed territory Never has this been so pronounced as with the American westStories of bravery new peoples cultures and strange new lands have enchantedAmericans for nearly two centuries This attraction is strikingly prominent in the filmhistory of the west Yet despite it s early and lasting popularity the Western has notuntil recent years attracted the attention of interpretive critics Many critics viewedWesterns as an escapist immature medium Discussions of Westerns characterized thegenre as endlessly repetitive utterly simple in form and naive in its attitudes Cook 64 However since the late 1960 s Westerns have been recognized similar to other forms ofpopular culture as a useful barometer of shifting currents in American society andculture Etulain 3 The development of the western film genre in American film culturehas progressed in manner style and ideology and can be tracked in association with thepolitical societal and cultural trends of the last 90 years The first westerns were the same as many other first films merely scientificrecordings of actual events such as wild west shows and rodeos The first Western withany content was The Great Train Robbery 1903 While still very primitive it gave much ofthe stock form to westerns that exists today It established the essential formula of crime pursuit showdown and justiceand within its ten minute running span it included in addition to the trainrobbery itself elements of fisticuffs horseback pursuit and gunplay along withsuggestions 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 hundredsThe Great Train Robbery was immensely popular and even introduced a socialconsciousness to film Etulain 8 Many of the Westerns that followed were similar inthat they represented the progress of film technology art and entertainment Two earlypioneers
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