Monday, June 15, 2015

he came out west on a northbound train

I've read in more than one place that Barney Miller was the most realistic cop show and Scrubs was the most realistic medical show. So, I come into the comedy The Shakiest Gun in the West with high hopes, looking for a deconstruction of the genre, touching on common tropes and putting a light on them by making fun of them.

I hope.

(Haywood (Don Knotts) offers up a graduation speech--he's graduated from a dentistry school and is going to head into the west to practice there--and reminds me that I should share this:

Nothing to do with this month of Westerns, of course, but as you should know if you're here this blog was all about Groundhog Day for the first year, and I still come back to that film once a month. That right there was my cap today for graduation. Technically, I won't have my Master's degree until I defend my thesis in the fall but I participated in the ceremony now rather than wait until next June. All my coursework is done. So, there's nothing but thesis left. (And, in case you're new, my thesis will tie into this blog a bit.))

First trope: guy Haywood meets getting on the train sees his handgun and shows off how he can spin his. Haywood tries the same and flips his gun through the train window. Of course, in a way, this does deconstruct the trope because spinning your gun is not practical.

Second trope: stagecoach full of different character types--a trapper, a businessman, a Native American woman and Haywood.

Third trope: stagecoach gets robbed, and it's like it's no big deal, happens every day. Except for Haywood, who seems a bit distressed.

Fourth trope... and I'm going to stop numbering them. Posse immediately forms up to go after the thieves once the stagecoach gets to town. The men are in such a hurry to go after the thieves (risking their lives, of course) that two of them jump to get on the same horse and knock each other down.

Deconstruction of Western gender types--Penny (Barbara Rhoades) is clearly not the usual Western woman but more like a gunfighter (she's one of the thieves) while "Pop" wants to stop robbing and fulfill his dream of moving back East to Boston to open a little dress shop.

It occurs to me that the posse ran off with nary a description of the thieves, just that there were two of them and they got the strong box. They see Penny, who clearly doesn't have the strong box and assume she's one of the thieves. The logic is not very sound. Except, since Western characters often wear one particular outfit--Penny has a distinctive red shirt--she could stand out... And, why do they all wear the same clothes all the time, anyway? The Man with No Name, for example, sure he could get attached to that poncho, but must he always wear the same blue shirt and the same vest underneath it?

To head upstairs in the hotel to get Haywood takes four men--they need a posse for everything, I suppose.

The Reverend Zachary Gant (Don Barry) and Matthew Basch (Jackie Coogan) as an implied homosexual couple (to be fair, Gant asks, "do you want to get us sent to jail?" as one of the "Bibles" boxes gets knocked open, but the line is well timed with Haywood calling the two men a lovely couple) is intriguing because you don't see homosexuals in Westerns--at least I haven't so far. Men are men and women are women. The lines are clear in the Western.

Shades of Liberty Valance when Penny shoots Arnold the Kid and lets it seem like Haywood did it.

Back to the homosexual couple. Generally, it seems like, per Wright's (1975) oppositions, there are different types of men, and they are pitted against one another not in terms of one or another being more masculine but it's different versions of masculinity against one another, and femininity is entirely separate.

And then Haywood has to go and dress like a Native woman.

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