• RKPROST

Stereotypical Westerns

Genre films, which have “codes and convention that are easily recognized by the audience,” made me think about how the movie Unforgiven is an example of genre revisionism. This 1992 film, directed by Clint Eastwood, is an anti-western because he reworks some of the familiar iconography associated with western movies. Unforgiven goes against stereotypical westerns because of its portrayal of the hero and the role of violence in the film.


While the hero stays true to some characteristics of the archetypal western hero, many of the traits he possesses are at odds with other western heroes. Will Munny, the hero of Unforgiven, is idolized by a younger generation (the Scholfield Kid), has an obscure past, and ultimately removes himself from civilization in the end. In the beginning, Munny is perceived as clumsy and reluctant to use violence. When he does, he is not as good of a shot as he used to be. This is demonstrated by him falling off his horse and missing targets, whether they are tin cans or people. Compared to other western movies where the hero is confident and a skilled gunslinger, Munny is just the opposite. Throughout the film, instead of seeing him progress in a positive manner, he transforms into the efficient killing machine he once was and despises. The role violence plays in this film is another example of how Unforgiven is an anti-western.


This film is not excessively graphic, however, it raises questions about the consequences of violence. Unforgiven lacks the duel or standoff scene, which is iconic in other western films. The conclusion of the film violates the convention which the hero cannot kill out of cold blood. Unlike other westerns, this movie displays the aftermath of violence. For instance, once the Scholfield Kid murders a person for the first time he faces a moral dilemma. He comes to the realization killing is not exciting and he does not like it. The consequences the characters face attempt to dissuade the audience from their involvement with violence. Additionally, there is a role reversal of the “good guys” and “bad guys.” In this case, the “hero” has selfish motives and kill for money whereas the “villain” is a sheriff doing his duty to protect the town. Because of the unconventional traits of the western hero and the role of violence, Eastwood reworked the western movie to create new means of representation and expression.

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