Posts Tagged ‘Guns’

Winchester ’73 was made in the 1950s, a time when men were mostly at work then returning home to their families at night. This movie clearly shows that to be a man one must partake in violence or at least forcibly take something of value. This can be seen even in the opening scene of the film where we are shown young boys and older men staring at this new and great Winchester gun. This shows that guns are desirable and that once a boy has a gun, through purchase or skill, he then becomes a man. We also see this use of a violent skill with the hero of the movie, Lin, who wins the prized gun in a sharpshooting contest. This movie also makes the viewer side with whoever has the most skills in violence, which also in this case is Lin.

There were many characters who did not live until the end of the movie for they lacked such gunfighting or skills in violence. One character was Steve. Steve, who already seemed cowardly and lacking in masculinity when he ran away from the Indians, almost did not have a choice in fighting Waco. Steve needed to prove his masculinity by standing up for his woman, Lola.  Because Steve was killed, it is clear that he did not have enough gunfighting skills or masculinity traits to move further in this movie.

The other note about masculinity in this movie is shown through the very obvious villain in the movie, Dutch Henry. It’s curious that both Lin and Dutch Henry are seen being very masculine through their acts of violence, but that only dutch Henry’s acts are seen as bad, even though we do not know what he did until the very end of the movie. I believe that this is because we see Lin fighting for justice, protecting those around him, and only harming those who get in the way of justice. This movie tells that to me a man, one must be skilled in violent acts but only use partake in those acts if necessary.

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They Died with Their Boots On is a film wrought with contradiction, released in 1941 on the eve of U.S. entry into WWII. The film, through it’s depiction of Custer’s strong sense of duty, likely helped the WWII generation to identify with a (fictionalized) Civil War generation. Yet, the drive of civilization against the “savages” of the frontier failed in the film; Custer’s Regiment is entirely destroyed by a combined American Indian force. Furthermore, the film questions the righteousness of American capitalism.

Throughout the film, Custer is often depicted as at odds with the dominant American society. At West Point, he is undisciplined and aggressive, often getting into fisticuffs. He earns his promotions through his cunning, rather than based on merit. In this way, he embodies the archetype of the frontiersman/outlaw.

The American businessmen and politicians believe that they are bringing civilization to the savages of the West. “And so was born the immortal 7th U.S. Cavalry which cleared the plains for a ruthlessly advancing civilization that spelled doom to the red race” (1:31:44). Yet with this civilization comes capitalist greed. At first, this greed manifests as an American businessmen outfitting Indians with Winchester rifles. Later it fuels the creation of a fake gold rush that lures Americans into violating Custer’s treaty with Crazy Horse.

As the Americans push to civilize the West, the West also has an effect on the frontiersmen. For example, before the final battle scene, Custer dons a traditional Native American tunic. Additionally, California Joe is the least refined non-Indian character in the movie; he chews tobacco constantly and speaks with a nearly incomprehensible drawl. Yet, he also is the most knowledgeable about the Native American ways and serves as a valuable adviser to Custer.

In short, although the film seems to support manifest destiny, it does bring into question the righteousness of American culture in comparison to the cultures of indigenous America.

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One of the most famous icons that represents America is the Statue of Liberty. It gets presented in a myriad of ways, not all of them as straightforward symbols of America. The above political cartoon is from a Canadian publication, The Globe and Mail, which supplies international news to its readers.

The cartoon is a twist on showing American values. It satirizes guns in America. The cartoon starts with the implicit understanding that the Statue of Liberty does stand for America and certain of its values (namely the idea of the ‘land of opportunity’ and by extension the American Dream) and lampoons other values. The speaker says “We felt it needed updating” which suggests the meaning and symbolism was being appropriated for just a specific group. This is reinforced by the ship having the logo of the NRA (National Rifle Association) on it. The poem on the front of the statue has been replaced by a quote from a Clint Eastwood Movie. The actual statue is much more hostile, holding a large revolver and looking more like a large, grizzled cop than Lady Liberty.

This suggests a hostility towards immigration on the part of the Americans, as well as an over use of firearms. This is all implied by taking the base symbolism of the Statue of Liberty and twisting it so that its absence implies something else.

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The actual figure and form of the Statue of Liberty represents an America with honorable, democratic values at its core: justice and knowledge as symbolized by her tablet, freedom by the broken chains at her feet, and progression by her forward moving stance. But is this still the reality in the 21st century? Are Americans still focused on these ideals?

I think the reimagined Statue of Liberty above more accurately portrays the current, 21st century values of America. This new Liberty is overweight, representing America’s current obesity epidemic, and possibly also our greed. She holds multiple consumer electronic devices where her tablet used to be, signifying our reliance and obsession with technology. Instead of her robes, she’s adorned with guns, holsters, and bandoliers, exemplifying American’s intense fixation, and debate, on the right to bear arms. On her head is a surveillance device, paired with the video camera in her hand, depicting our current issues with privacy and free speech.

It’s disheartening to realize that this Liberty, in her “new clothes,” may actually be a better representation of America than the original. I would so much rather be writing about how timeless the Statue of Liberty is, how her first representation of America hasn’t changed. Unfortunately, we’ve changed as people and a nation, and I’m not sure if Liberty is still the best presentation of our values.

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This picture I chose of Abraham Lincoln wielding a gun, with blood splattered across his face I felt certainly met the criteria of unusual. In this depiction Tim Burton is presenting ‘Slaybraham Lincoln’ a funny and catchy adaption of his name. The reasoning behind the picture and the name is Lincoln here is being presented as a vampire hunter who killed the blood suckers on the side of leading the United States of America as President. This quirky adaption of the man who is better known for the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg address is seen here in a comical manner almost. While this may not be to the taste of many historians and patriots of America it certainly does convey the wide spectrum of fields Lincoln’s legend has covered. Although we know the director Burton is no stranger to film making of this kind it was still an extremely bold move to go down an avenue that almost parodies Lincoln. Personally I was actually baffled that I found a picture this unusual on Lincoln and in a time of such prominence of the man with Spielberg’s adaption it shows a marked contrast in how two film makers can depict an American icon.

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Guns and Liberty

talk to the gun

The idea of the manifestation of liberty holding a gun and letting it do the talking is distinctly American. Few other countries hold guns as inalienable possessions in the same way that America does, so it makes sense that at some point Lady Liberty would get one. I think it’s one of the most overt reappropriations of the Statue of Liberty; lots of them show her crying or being sad for America, but in this depiction, she’s still a proud protector. What I’m curious about is the appeal of this image, or the amount of people it resonates with, especially worldwide.

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