There are two similar but distinct representations of masculinity in this movie: Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Wyatt Earp demonstrates bravery and intelligence at the very beginning of the movie, when he removes a drunken “indian” from the saloon of a town called Tombstone. Everyone in town has fled from the saloon, because the indian is firing his gun in every direction. Wyatt has just ridden in town with his brothers, looking for a shave (like a proper gentleman – another aspect of Earp’s masculinity), but he decides to take control of the situation. He sneaks through an upstairs window and knocks the indian out from behind. The townspeople immediately offer him the job as town Marshall, which he initially declines.
When Wyatt discovers that his younger brother James was shot dead by some cattle rustlers (while Wyatt and his other brothers were in town), he seems to feel responsible – James was only 18, perhaps Wyatt felt responsible for protecting his younger brother? After this discovery, Wyatt decides to take the job in Tombstone, and admits that his general plan is to “clean up this town.”
When Doc Holliday initially tells Wyatt to draw, Wyatt reveals that he carries no gun (but his brothers are all there, and they have guns). In this respect, Wyatt appears to be a supporter of nonviolent problem solving, when possible. When the townspeople are on the edge of a riot, Wyatt calms them and delivers the missing actor to the stage to appease the audience. Wyatt appears to be a thinking man, while Doc Holliday appears to be a brute and a bully – his entrance into the story starts with him running a man out of town due to some previous disagreement. Holliday’s girlfriend(ish?), Chihuahua (what a cruel mother she must have had), tells Wyatt that Tombstone is Doc Holliday’s town, as if the town wasn’t big enough for both men (which seems like she’s calling out Wyatt’s machismo). It seems like every other scene, Doc is being violent or abrasive (especially toward Chihuahua), however Doc does demonstrate an appreciation of Shakespeare, and has even memorized lines from Hamlet – which speaks toward his sophistication and intelligence. Another surprising reveal is that Doc is actually a surgeon, albeit an ailing, drunken one.
The two men continue to butt heads for much of the film, especially when Clementine arrives in town. Wyatt treats Clementine with the utmost respect, while Doc tells her to get out of town (although Doc clearly has a deeper relationship with Clementine than Wyatt). In contrast, Wyatt throws Chihuahua into a trough of water after she slaps him, which seems like a very brutish response. At the climax of their conflict, Doc tells Wyatt to draw, and Wyatt shoots the gun out of Doc’s hand – which seems to indicate that Wyatt has ‘won.’ The way Wyatt handles the O.K. Corral also shows his intellect – he organizes his men to surround the Clantons, and he times his discussion with the Clantons so that he is hidden by the dust from a passing stagecoach when one of the Clantons begins shooting at him. A big part of this movie, despite it being a western (which we discussed in class, seems to emphasize simplicity and ruggedness over sophistication and intelligence), seems to associate manliness with cleverness.
Doc and Wyatt seem to reflect various aspects of masculinity while foiling with each other: sometimes one seems sophisticated and the other seems brutish, sometimes one seems rugged and the other seems weak – but in the end they become friends (sort of) and Doc goes with Wyatt to avenge Wyatt’s brothers’ deaths at the O.K. Corral.
Women in the film: Clementine is a ‘proper woman’ who dresses modestly and maintains composure, while Chihuahua has a fiery temper (slaps Wyatt, throws a glass, manhandles Clementine’s clothes in a rage) and dresses a bit more provocatively. It seems that Clementine is the model of correct feminine behavior, while Chihuahua is a model of bad feminine behavior, or perhaps a statement about hispanic women (although it took me until about halfway through the film, when someone says her name, to realize she’s supposed to be Mexican. could they have picked a whiter actress?)? However, one thing can be said about Chihuahua – she took that anesthetic-lacking surgery like a damn pro.
Why is this movie named for the character who has probably the least screen time and the least character development?
– Emma Napolitano