Why No More Western Movies/TV Shows?

Having grown up during the 1960’s, I had my fill of John Wayne westerns, and all the shows on TV (GUNSMOKE, BONANZA, etc.). What happened to this genre? Usually the media likes to do things in cycles (SCI-FI, followed by Westerns, followed by comedies, etc.).
Well, the way I figure, we should be ripe for a return of the classic western! But I don’t see it!
The western carries in it most of our cherished American myths (the empire builder, self-made man, heroic warrior, etc.), so to me it is strange that this theme isn’t around anymore.
Of course, John Ford is gone, and Sergio Leone hasn’t done anything in years.
WHEN will we get to see some NEW stuff?

There was a round of western revival in the late 80s/early 90s, but it was fairly short lived. Remember Silverado, Pale Rider, Young Guns, Doctor Quinn, and TV movies starring Kenny Rogers?

I’m sure appeal (or lack thereof) has a lot to do with it. I grew up in the 70s and 80s after the western craze had passed and I certainly didn’t long for its return. The whole thing just seemed so old-fashioned to me. And since I am in the coveted 18-34 demographic (Ok, I’m at the very end of it), I haven’t had any media companies trying to sell me on a new incarnation of something I didn’t really watch in the first place.

I wonder if we will ever see it return. The revival cycle has gotten so short now (Charlie’s Angles fer cryin’ out loud?) that some things may just drop off the radar forever.

Maybe it has to do with differing attitudes on racism. Ferexample, in the 1950s you could portray indians as ‘savage redmen’. You’d get sued for doing that today. The genre was the victim of the Civil Rights movement, I think.

I disagree with Derlith.
I think that there have been genuine attempts to portray Natives as something other than savages.
Films probably would do a better job except for ignorance of the true situation.

My candidate for the death of westerns is the growth of the sports movie.
Now we can have our heros get the girl because they are great at Baseketball rather than for their death dealing skills.
Same escapist fun, PG rating ( sometimes ).

It seems to me that there tends to be a surge in Western stuff every few decades. Around the turn of the century, traveling real-live Western shows were mighty hot. Westerns were mighty popular in the 1930s as well (take Cimmaron, for example, one of the earliest Oscar winners). The 1950s had a HUGE Western boom that didn’t fade until around 1970.

By my reckoning, we really should have had a Western surge in the late 80s/early 90s, but it didn’t happen the way it had previously (although there were those Young Guns movies, and Unforgiven’s Oscar wins sparked some imitations for about 2 years). We are indeed overdue for a surge, but be patient, it’ll happen. Hope it’s soon, because I have a lot of Roy Rogers/Gene Autry/other 1950s Western comic books I’d like to sell in a bull market.

I think it’s much simpler, really: Irony killed the western. And, IMO, not one minute too soon, at least when speaking of the dreadful television variety, which amounted to little more than soap operas in spurs.

Some not-well-organized thoughts:

  1. The post-Watergate/Vietnam media culture helped destroy
    popular belief in heroes by making us quite expert in finding feet of clay. People still want heroes, but they’re perfectly happy to watch them ripped apart within moments of their annointment.

And the word for today is schadenfreude.

  1. What’s left of the good-vs-evil narrative is wildly exaggerated into camp, either of the sport variety (WWF) or sci-fi (Star Trek).

  2. We’re now a few too many generations removed from the frontier. I suspect that the resonance of a particular storyline in popular culture depends in part upon the actual experiences of the people living at the time. Up to the 1960s, the grandparents of kids watching Lone Ranger could remember the Wild West as a contemporary phenomenon, even if they hadn’t experienced it themselves. Remember, the Oklahoma land rush didn’t happen until the turn of the century, and Arizona and New Mexico didn’t join the Union until 1912.

Die Hard-- gun-wielding robbers are taken down by policeman Bruce Willis

Top Gun – man overcomes personal demons and battles the enemy in a final shootout

Or what about the ever-popular “quick trigger” shootout scenes? Look closely at the final confrontation in the Matrix, the two men face each other at about 50 feet distance, loose newspapers (tumbleweeds?) blow between them, and Neo twitchs his fingers before they draw.

Westerns aren’t dead, they’ve been recycled, as they in turn were recycled from thousands of year of mythology.

A more interesting question is why Westerns in the first place? The “Wild” West had been tamed long before it became such a cultural image or myth. I leave it with you.

There aren’t many musical or variety shows any more either. That’s another genre that people don’t care to watch anymore , although it is for different reasons than westerns.

denbo wrote:

And Ruslters’ Rhapsody.
Don’t forget Rustlers’ Rhapsody.

Country-western music took over the cowboy and turned him into a whiny, pathetic, loser with talc in his head where the brains should be. The icon was completely corrupted. I blame Nashville for the death of the western.

The music stinks, too.

You know what happens when you play country music backwards?

You get your truck back, you get your girl back, and your dog comes back from the dead.

Sheesh. Just when I had forgotten it. Thanks a lot.

Although in its defense, it did feature a young and very fetching Sela Ward.