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John Wayne Essay, Research Paper
America s Hero
Today, in American history John Wayne is connected with the cultural development of the American hero He embodied the values of that time that determine a hero. He was a hero who is strong and fearless. He was the hero who was beyond the law and civilization. He became a hero that every kid wants to be like and every man admirers. But most importantly, John Wayne became America s hero, fitting the qualities that America considered to be a hero, comparable to today s actors, for example Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwartzenegger,. He became a skilled actor who brought roles to life in movies.
Throughout his career, John Wayne portrayed the hero who is brave and strong. John Wayne embodied the typical values of an American hero. In his movies, he portrayed the fearless cowboy who fought the savage, ruthless Indian tribes who tormented the white settlers and their families. In the movie The Searchers (1956), John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a rugged man who returns to his brother s home, back from fighting for the Confederacy, in the Civil War. The basic plot to the movie is Ethan Edward s search for his niece, who has been missing for seven years, after she was captured by a Comanche tribe. Throughout the movie, Ethan Edwards is the brave cowboy leader who talks about chasing the tribe down, or the brave fighter who engages in a shootout with the Indian tribe. During the movie, Ethan Edwards portrays the strong, physical type man, the type of guy who can travel the western frontier and fight the ruthless Indian tribes and cruel conditions in the west. Or the type of hero, who can be strong enough emotionally to bury his dead family members, who died at the hands of violent Indians. Because of his portrayal of a rugged hero, we have the common stereotype of a man, being rugged, strong, brave, and a man who shows no emotion around others.
John Wayne also embodied the quality that a hero is above common law, a hero who is the judge and jury and can bring about judgement and vengeance. In the movie, The Searchers, he is the hero who rides off in pursuit of the Comanche tribe, so that he can gain vengeance on the deaths of his brother and relatives, and to find his niece as well. In his essay The Invention of John Wayne , Louis Owens writes: The true hero of the American West is beyond the mundane law because he is beyond its reach civilization–, and he operates not within the laws of man but within those of a manifest God (Lewis 110). Lewis points out the qualities of a hero in the American West, stating that a hero is above the law, and acts instead like a god or God and delivers judgement and vengeance on his enemies. In another movie, Stagecoach (1939), John Wayne plays Ringo Kid. In the movie, Ringo is after his family s killers and is not satisfied until he delivers justice on those killers. Ringo escapes from prison and is on a mission to deliver to vengeance on the killer of his brother and father. He is allowed out of jail by a sympathetic sheriff and so he pursues his murderous mission. Lewis Owens explains: As the quintessential American hero, Ringo cannot be contained by mundane law Ringo is freed by the sheriff to execute his personal justice by shooting his family s killers. Like the American hero he is, Ringo is godlike in his freedom and willingness to deal out justice (Lewis 111). Because of these qualities, the bravery, the strength, the freedom, the power to deliver justice, John Wayne fits the description of a hero. But he became a cultural influence when he had the influence on the American public.
John Wayne was the type of hero that had an affect on his audience. He was the type of hero, that every kid wants to be like. The type of man, that every guy admirers and wishes that he could be. John Wayne was so liked and admired that he had kids wanting to be like him. He had kids acting like him and playing the game cowboy and indians , a game that had boys arguing to be John Wayne. Lewis Owens remembers his young days and states, As an eight-year-old, however, just inside from playing cowboys and Indians with my ten-year-old brother who always got to be the cowboy (Owens 109). Because children watched John Wayne and his movies, especially the movies that he played the cowboy shooting at indians and riding the Wild West, they idolized him and wanted to be like him. They played games to imitate him, this just shows the type of influence this hero had on American society back then. He became recognized as hero, that is the reason that kids began to imitate him, they admired him. Not only did he have influence on the children, but he also had adult males admiring him.
John Wayne was so big, that he had adult males wanting to be like him, wishing that they could do the same as him. They admired him for his freedom and his lifestyle. They wanted to be the hero in the movie. They want to be the man who is able to ride the Wild West with no worries, to have freedom. Men wanted to be able to take justice and vengeance into their own hands, just like John Wayne did in his movies. Owens states, The West that the Duke rode through was, and continues to be, the greatest dream of all. It is the place where the white sloughs off old names and histories, and sheds whatever flaws he may bear and makes himself anew (Owens 109). To American men, the lifestyle that John Wayne had in his movies was the dream that most men had. Men wanted to be free and be able to roam the west on horses, doing what they wanted. Men in the east wanted to drop their lives and ride to the west, they wanted to be John Wayne on the horse with shotguns and next to their buddies. Most importantly the west was a place where males could start anew, create a new persona, and live a different life. John Wayne wasn t totally a hero, in the true sense that he actually saved lives or defeated evil, but he became a hero because he became America s hero, he fit the mold that society had created to determine a hero.
John Wayne became America s hero, because he fits the mold that America considered to be a hero, he filled the qualities that males considered being heroic. Today, he can be comparable to Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwartzenegger. John Wayne became America s hero because he represented the hero that American wanted to see. In his final movie, The Shootist (1976), John Wayne played the role of a legendary gunman, John Bernard Books, whom suffered from cancer. It was a mirror image of John Wayne s life, it was a way for a hero to end his career, and by playing a role that fitted his life in reality. Owens states, the film plays tribute to John Wayne the actor, giving him the opportunity to close out his career with the enormous, tragic dignity befitting the great American hero that he was (Owens 117). John Wayne became a hero in America because he portrayed heroes in movie, he could make any role look good. He was America s hero because he portrayed the image that society thought was a hero. Owens points out: He is the product of white America s collective self-imagining, an animated text that tells the story of this country. Most incredible in all of this is that Marion Michael Morrison, (John Wayne s real name), did, in fact, give himself over to the Euramerican imagination to be reshaped, reborn into a fictive hero with his offscreen self formed entirely by the camera s view (Owens 117). He became an image of society s view of a hero, an image of what the males of that time wanted to see, and wanted to be like. Because of this he is considered an American hero. So to judge him by the roles he played, and say that he was racist, cruel or fake, would be a quick false judgement. He was an actor who played the roles of a hero, a hero who society created.
Ford, John, Director, The Searchers, (1956), Warner Bros.
Owens, Louis, The Invention of John Wayne , in La Puerta
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