28 January 2010

A stone in my heart

In your typical western it doesn’t really matter on which side of the law the hero is. As long as he is an excellent gunslinger, he passes the test. Since Clint Eastwood, we like our heroes quiet and without a name.
What did you say your name was?
I didn’t say.

It is the bad guys who wear catchy names and speak funny lines.
But they too must be excellent gunslingers.
The setting is a lawless country. There are bad guys who kill innocents. There are good guys who chase the bad guys. And then there are shooting showdowns. No swords are involved, and no honor must be obeyed. The aim is to outsmart the opponent. Playing not by the book is the smartest thing the hero can do.
At first glance, it seems that Wild West could hardly be any further from honorable Eastern sword duels. Yet, this is not completely true. For there were, once, Indians. Before the lawless strangers arrived and took away the rules.
Battles ensued. Amidst these battles that were fought for the very survival of a race, the Indian chief Sitting Bull got off his horse, sat within shooting range of the cavalry with his 13-year-old warriors and smoked a pipe. All in order to show his fearlessness in the face of the battle that he knew could never be won. His world was being torn down by fearful, but many strangers.
Which Homer wrote the epic psalms of these battles?
In fact, it was Buffalo Bill with his Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. The same Buffalo Bill who returned from a bloody campaign against Indians with a new show: Buffalo Bill shows his first scalp to Custer.
The same Buffalo Bill who showcast Sitting Bull, once captured, in his Wild West circus.
The genre of westerns took over from there. The fearful, but many strangers still looked to the untamed east for ideas. There could be no The Magnificent Seven, if there were no Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai first. Only, The Magnificent Seven are without swords, without the honesty of the villagers, without the honor of the samurai, without the rules of the game.
Then why is it exactly that Bruce Willis picks up the sword in Pulp Fiction?

[Depicted on the posted photograph are Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill]

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