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The Modern Western Discussion (was "sci-fi western discussion")

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I split this off into a new thread...

I haven't seen Deadwood, but everyone who's seen it gives it glowing reviews. Though is it still airing new episodes?

And I only saw Firefly on DVD, so I never experienced it with the episode reshuffle.

The PA movies/novel have indeed borrowed heavily from that "journeyman" tone you speak off, but I still think that's different too. There, the focus is on merely surviving. With westerns, there's always this aspect of making a way of life and protecting a way of life. (Hence their enormous popularity after WWII. I mean, Jesus, how much more overtly "We must protect the American way from the Reds, oops I mean Redskins," can you get?")

What Firefly did that was brilliant was that post-Civil War/reformation allegory. "The confederacy is dead! What am I going to do in this this new social order? Fuck it. Let's go west and make our own social order." In a way, I guess it is similar to that PA ideal, but without all the depressing death and destruction.

Maybe that's what I'm looking for: the romanticization (Is that a word?) of the old west. That idea of hope, and a new life worth fighting for. I mean, fuck isn't that what made Star Trek so great? "We're boldly going where no man has gone before. WE are the aliens, and while we come in peace, I won't hesitate to give you a Sheriff James T. Kirk ass-whuppin' if you varmints step out of line." Roddenberry got that, he understood that dream of space travel was not all that different from the dreams of the frontiersmen who settled and lived in the old west.

Man, when I think of what Firefly could have been if they'd have kept going. . .

Deadwood ended after three seasons.

And tell me this isn't asking to cancel a series.  The original airing order for Firefly:

It's like they put them in a hat and drew randomly.

Westerns are not always about that aspect, RC!  The most popular westerns (on TV) are about outcasts fighting against the system.  Have Gun Will Travel has an anti-hero in the lead, a hired killer who only takes pity on women and children.  Maverick and Masterson are criminals.  All the drovers in Rawhide are CSA vets who can't fit in.

For every goodnik western, there's an anti-hero western.

For the films -- what would you say the true classics are?  Yes, you have your anti-communist cavalry vs. indians sub-genre, which were churned out by the truckload... But I bet you can't name a single one.  We walk away from the genre with the Eastwood collection -- a cold, calculating killer, or a vengeful ghost. 

And all those big names -- High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Searchers are the deep, dark struggles of bad men, or men tempted to be bad, or weak, or abandoned.

Think of the westerns that stand out in your mind from the era and tell me what you take away:  An anti-communist message, or a deeper social commentary?

But, yes, I also would like to see the romanticization of the west (a la Firefly).  And the Star Trek point (in addition to other "western" style sci-fi shows like both BSGs, Caprica, Buck Rogers, Lost in Space, and even Stargate to a degree) lead to a new (but related) question -- is sci-fi this generation's western?

I think sci-fi IS this generation's western. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but that makes Firefly's quick demise all the more depressing. I mean, shit, I can't recall any flaws or missteps that show made. (other than the aforementioned episode reshuffle.) If that can't work, what can?

I understand the whole Anti-hero thing. Even Mal became a guy on the run, right?

Missouri Breaks is one of my favorite westerns, which is about a train robber who falls in love with the daughter of the wrong rancher. It's totally depressing, but awesome too.

While I really want to articulate the difference between the western anti-hero and the PA anti-hero, because I think it's important (Though maybe its only important to me.), I'm having trouble. To me, it's a question of tone. Though I guess Robert Neville and Josie Wales aren't all that different. Zombies or Indians, weird mutant cult leader or corrupt sheriff, nuclear wasteland or Butte, Montana . . . it all fits the mold pretty nicely.

To me though, it has to be fun or audiences tune out, especially on TV.

I actually hadn't drawn parallels with western anti-heroes and PA anti-heroes.

But, now -- of course!

And (as you point out with your examples) -- I don't see differences at all.  Mad Max as the reluctant gunfighter, eh? Forced to avenge his family, then unwillingly giving his services to those in need. Book of Eli is just Kung Fu all over again.


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