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Women In Westerns Essay, Research Paper
Women in Westerns
Women?s roles in western movies are very diversified. Although the roles are very different from each other, they are very stereotypical. Almost all women characters in western movies play one of the following: a mother, school teacher, prostitute, or an outlaw.
Through comparing three western movies, all ranging in different eras from 1932 to 1994, it is clearly shown that whether it?s the loving mother or town prostitute,
women characters often play a minor part compared to the men, yet they are very important to the whole development of the film.
Jean Aurther plays a very loving mother and wife in the 1952 film Shane. The opening scene perfectly depicts the stereotypical mother. She stands near a window washing dishes. She is watching her son play outside. A strange man rides up on his horse and begins to talk to the little boy. The woman peers out the window at the hansom mysterious man. As he catches her looking at him she quickly hides her face as if not to be seen.
Her husband then comes out to talk to the stranger. The window and her face is always seen in the background as the two men talk but she often hides from the view of the window. Finally she comes outside and stands next to her husband without speaking as her husband introduces ?the little woman? to the stranger.
This opening scene depicts the woman as inferior to her husband. She is doing housework in the background and is not heard. She does not speak except for the polite invitation for dinner to the stranger. She then silently leaves the scene to go inside to finish up fixing the dinner.
Jean Aurther?s character as the ?typical? wife tends to all of the household duties including all of the cooking and cleaning and takes care of the garden. She is always looking after the little boy making sure that he is not getting into any trouble.
During the dinner scene the wife does all of the serving at the table. She sits down as the men eat but does not eat dinner herself and does not speak unless a question is asked by her husband. She serves the dessert and clean up afterward.
The other women in this film are represented in the same manner. In the town store, women and girls are folding clothing silently as they watch what goes on around them. As a fight breaks out in the saloon that is joined to the store, the women run out and hide for their safety. Men joke around with each other as they complain about their wives taking too long to get ready to go to town. They then admit that it?s worth the wait because they are so beautiful.
Women in this movie are depicted as very worrisome. They discourage their husbands from fighting in a begging manner that is over dramatized. They just want everyone to get along and stay away from gruesome fights that might lead to shooting. They act the same way towards their children as they are always worried about them staying out of trouble and getting to bed at an decent time.
They are good mothers and wives yet that is all they are depicted as. The women in the movie Shane are flat characters and we only see one side of them thus giving the stereotypical view that women are only valuable for the services they provide for the family.
In The Shootist, released in 1976 only has three women characters in the whole film. Two are very minor characters and one is a main character. Although two are minor, each woman depicts a very different role. There is the pure, the evil, and the hardworking.
The leading lady is also a wife and a mother but she is very different from Jean Aurthur?s character in Shane. Mrs. Rogers played by Lauren Bacall is a widowed mother of a teenager who runs a hotel service from her home. Bacall?s character is a very stern and orderly woman and is very meticulous about running the hotel efficiently. Mrs. Rogers puts up a very tough front perhaps due to the trauma of losing her husband only one year prior.
She politely invites a stranger to stay in her home, not knowing that he is a famous gunslinger dying of cancer, yet lays down the rules immediately. She has no problem telling anyone her opinion whether it is a man or a woman.
When Mrs. Rogers finds out that the man is actually the well known gunman J.B.Books, she is very angry. She didn?t want that kind of presence staying in her home and she is mad that he lied to her about his identity. She, without hesitation, proclaims her disapproval to Books. He then reveals to her that he is dying. Mrs. Rogers feels sympathy for Books and tells him she has no intentions of throwing him out, yet she still put up an angry front.
The presence of the Shootist drives out the other lodgers. This angers Mrs. Rogers but she feels she can?t abandon Books in this time of need. She tends to his meals and cleans his clothes and does favors if he asks, but all along she openly voices her distaste to Books about his life style and his actions. There is a connection that happens, perhaps a mutual attraction between the two but Mrs. Rogers worries about what others might think of her. She even breaks into tears in front of her son about Books cancer, but she would never let the shootist see her cry. She never lets her guard down.
Mrs. Rogers tends to Books needs up until the day he died but still did not approve of him.
Mrs. Rogers is a very strong character who although still takes care of a man?s needs, is very opinionated about voicing her aversion for it. She unlike the character in Shane is not a flat character. Her emotions and sympathetic behavior is actually felt and understood by the viewer.
The other two female parts in this movie are very minor yet very opposite. An old girlfriend of Books comes into town after hearing the bad news about him. She seems sympathetic towards him at first and he mistakes her moral support. She wanted to marry him to carry his name into a book deal about Books?s life that would written by the famous ?Mrs. Books?. This offended Books and he threw her out. He did not want to be remembered by a fiction story in a book. As the woman is leaving she wishes a horrid and painful death to Mr. Books. She is a nasty greedy character who makes the viewers even more sympathetic to the dying gunman.
The last female character is on the train when Book boards. She is smiling and announces what a beautiful day it is outside. She is young and pretty and full of pure innocence. She enlightens Books and he smiles for the first time in the movie. It is his birthday as well as the day he dies. The girl brings a sense of completion into Books life. Even though it has been full of killing and cruelty she brings morality that Books can truly appreciates.
In the third 1994 movie, Quick and the Dead, the female role is completely different from the first two movies. Sharon Stone plays a leading woman role that is much like a typical male hero in a western movie. The hero rides into town, saves the day, and then rides off into the sunset just as mysteriously as he came in.
Although Stone is similar to a male in a western, the woman has a more developed character. By the end of the movie we know of her past and more background than we would typically know about a male character.
As the male dressed woman rides into town she acts very masculine. She smokes a cigar as she walks into the saloon. She orders a drink and sits down. She is rude to anyone that tries to talk to her including the young girl who says she?s never seen a woman with a gun before. Men still look at her as a sex object and don?t really take her toughness seriously. She comes back at them with a smart remark and a careless attitude.
Stone?s character acquires the name ?The Lady? while in the first bar scene and that what she is known by throughout the film.
Her past is told by flashbacks of her father?s death. As a little girl, it was up to her to save he father?s life but in result she was cause of his death. This was of course a traumatizing ordeal that had affected her life. Perhaps that is why she comes across to others in the town at first as a tough, masculine type character.
This is where we see more depth into ?The Lady?. She has such strong guilt and love for her father and such hatred towards the town mayor who she realizes is the one that handed her the gun that day. She defends the good in the town and looks after the other women. This is shown when Lady kills a man for having sex with a young girl. She then feels bad for killing another human being. Her emotions are very prevalent to the viewer causing sympathy towards the character. This is what sets her aside from a typical male in a western.
Ironically enough The Lady saves a preacher in the same situation that she had killed her father, which results, into her participation of the town?s shooting contest. Her aim and gun skills had obviously improved and the viewers are left unsure what has happened in her life since she was a little girl.
She gets upset at the fact that the preacher used to be an outlaw despite the fact that he has changed his ways. She dislikes those who kill and doesn?t want to be a part of the shooting contest.
Stone?s character has one very feminine moment in this film. She is invited to dinner from her enemy. She uses her femininity as a weapon and shows up to dinner in a beautiful dress. This again gives more depth into her character. It brings out the true sensitive woman inside of her that she likes to keep hidden behind a very tough front.
During the shooting scenes, the Lady is scared. She is nervous and does not want to be put in this situation. Lady honestly doesn?t want to hurt anyone innocent. Her hatred makes her determined to see the mayor dead in the end. She uses quick thinking and ultimately gets him back in the end. She then of course is the hero of the town and then rides off alone, perhaps a more healed person. Lady had resolved issues that had been stirring deep inside of her for so many years.
Although not present in any of these films, saloon girls are often part of western movies. These prostitutes are looked at only as sex objects by male characters. This type of representation is demeaning and unrealistic for women. Much like the loving mother, prostitutes are flat characters with no known background. This again gives a one sided, stereotypical view of the woman.
In these three movies, women are depicted very differently. Even though the films were created years apart, there is one thing that they all have in common. Women are important support characters in western movies. They bring in a different flavor into the film no matter what type of character they are represented as.
Women should not be overlooked as minor background characters because if females were not present, the western would not be complete.
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