Today Red Dead Redemption 2 comes out on Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and we are excited about it! In fact, the second ever article on The Nerdd was about the Nintendo Switch release announcement and the Red Dead Redemption 2 release announcement (at that time announced to be released Fall 2017).
Its always fun playing a cowboy in the Wild West, shooting guns, saving people, riding horses. Speaking of horses…
This game release made me notice, however, that there seems to be a spike in Cowboy entertainment lately. The next big hit on HBO after Game of Thrones is Westworld, a really cool mix of cowboys and sci-fi.
There is also a Kevin Costner show Yellowstone that just got approved for a second season.
The best superhero movie since The Dark Knight was Logan, a western film that follows many similar beats to popular western Shane, which was actually seen on tv by some of the characters in Logan. A man of violence who has tried to retire to peace, but finds himself drawn to it one last time to save innocent people. Meta-referencing to make sure you know that they want it to be seen as a western film. When you buy the Blu-ray, you can even watch the whole thing in black and white, how the director meant for it to be seen.
Even Pixar has gotten on the train lately, with The Good Dinosaur. The film is full of farmers and cattle herders (the T. Rexes below). The main character dinosaur, who wasn’t as good with manual labor as his farming family, must travel the wild frontier with a caveman human boy as a pet, to find his way back home.
Personally as well, fellow Nerdd Marlis and I had the chance to play a western/steampunk/horror TTRPG Deadlands with the writer, John Goff.
Though this doesn’t count as recent, who can forget Firefly, a western in space, complete with train robberies, smuggling from the law, prostitutes, and balls where everyone dresses up and dances.
Lastly, this weekend (Oct 24-28) where I live is an event called Cowboy Poetry, which is basically CowboyCon. There are vendor booths and art, musical performances, and special events like “Cowboy Mounted Shooters.” This event is huge in the cowboy world and attracts people from around the country yearly.
To be fair, I do live in Utah, which back in the day was a quintessential Old West state, much like California or Texas. Our Silver Mining Boom was not unlike the Gold Rush, especially since it coincided with the finishing of the Transcontinental Railroad. Utah was even home to Butch Cassidy (which is partly why the “Sundance” Film Festival is held in Park City).
My question, however, is why is the Wild West such a popular time in American History?
During it’s peak around 1860, less than 15% of the American population lived West of the Mississippi River. Not only that, but it was a time of struggle with a huge risk of death, which is kindly represented on The Oregon Trail game.
The Wild West (at least in the media) was a lawless time, full of bandits and shootouts and gangs and bank robberies. However, it was a time of discovery and self-motivated change that you may call Manifest Destiny!
I believe it’s because of the fact that in the Wild West, it didn’t matter who you were before. Most of the citizens had just moved there from the East, and had no money, land, or prospects to speak of. You couldn’t fall back on your family prestige, because nobody cares. You had to prove that you could handle yourself. You weren’t just proving it to others around you, but just to nature itself, because nature sees all of us as equals, and in the desert, you die as equals. The Wild West was a true meritocracy.
“Westerns embody the freedom that’s at the heart of American mythology, the belief that the individual matters for who they are, not where they come from. Westerns ultimately present the world as a dangerous place, but one where a single person can make a huge difference if they only follow their moral compass and stick to their guns.” –John Goff (Writer for Deadlands)
Cowboys have become our historical mythology, much like Samurai in Fuedal Japan, Knights in Medieval England, and Gladiators in Ancient Rome. Each culture has had an archetypal warrior who’s values represent their own. Even in modern day superheroes we have seen this concept of it doesn’t matter who you were, it only matters who you are willing to become.
Though the reasons behind why it’s so popular can be talked about for hours on end (AKA More articles to come), there has certainly been a rise in popularity of the Western culture recently. Many people may make fun of the spaghetti-westerns with all of their tropes, but it is a huge source of wealth in pop culture, and is now seeping into the geek/nerd sphere!
What are some of your favorite Wild West forms of media? Let us know in the comments below!