Justified: Guy Walks Into A Bar

A little behind on Justified—just now watched episode 10, “Guy Walks Into a Bar.” In order to avoid a lawsuit (because of the all the things that the prison system did wrong back when Dickie temporarily escaped a few episodes back), Kentucky has decided to give Dickie Bennett a pardon and release him. Raylan tries various stategies to prevent that from happening, ultimately doing the one thing he most does not want to do—testify at Dickie’s hearing. “You’ve testifed before,” Art tells him. “It’s never gone well,” Raylan admits.

My admiration for Dickie’s hair is ongoing this season. When he appears at the hearing (above), it is in fine form. For much of this season, his hair has looked like he has been licked repeatedly by a herd of cows. At the hearing, there’s a little more control over his hair. It looks like only 4 cows have licked it, one on his right side, licking several times straight up, one on his left side also licking several times straight up, and then two other cows, one on each side again, but with only one lick applied by each cow, right at the crown of his head, from back to front, so that there’s a little bit of an accent pushing forward toward his forehead on both sides.

After Raylan’s testimony, Art comments, “Next time you tell me you’re not good at something, I’ll believe you.” Near the end of his testimony, Raylan changes course, “What the hell. Let him out.” And the judge agrees.

The more serious part of the episode is the continue disintegration of Quarles. He’s the guy that walks into a bar—and tells Raylan that he will someday kill him. We almost have a showdown, as Raylan asks, why wait? The attractive shotgun-wielding bartender/owner puts a stop to things. What has worked really well over the past few episodes is Wynn Duffy’s increasing uneasiness, mostly conveyed through his reaction shots. Definitely a survivor, one wonders how long it’s going to be before Duffy unhooks himself from the unstable Quarles.


Wrapping Up The Walking Dead

The final episode (“Beside the Dying Fire”) of The Walking Dead‘s second season wrapped up a sequence of episodes that have drawn heavily on the series’ roots in the genre western. From the shootout in the saloon in “Nebraska” (episode 8) to the playing out of the consequences of that shooting (and Rick’s decision to bring one of the strangers back to the farm) to the final showdown between Shane and Rick, these episodes have been full of western references. The meeting of the survivors in “Judge, Jury, Executioner” to discuss the fate of the stranger Randall—as to whether or not his knowledge of the farm’s location constitutes a clear enough danger to justify executing him—could have taken place in The Ox-Bow Incident, or any other film where the frontiersmen debate the ethics of extralegal violence (aka, a lynching).

“Beside the Dying Fire” centers on a western staple—the massive attack by a savage enemy on the homestead (in this case, Hershel’s farm). The template for such attacks, as much a staple of the zombie genre as the western one, goes back at least as far as D. W. Griffith’s The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913). Many of the same conventions (and even the same camera shots and editing sequences) that are in Griffith’s silent film continue to be present in the zombie film, with the primary differences that the Indians of Griffith’s film are replaced by zombies, and the cavalry that rides to the rescue in the 1913 film are usually nowhere to be found in the zombie flick. We could go back even further to the captivity narrative of the 17th-century, which consistently portrayed Native Americans with a similar sense of alterity as the contemporary zombie. Mary Rowlandson, for example, describes an attack on her village: “At length they came and beset our house, and quickly it was the dolefullest day that ever mine eyes saw.” Of one of her neighbors, Rowlandson writes, they “knockt him in the head, and stript him naked, and split open his Bowels.” Her description foreshadows by several hundred years the modus operandi of the zombie attack. In making this comparison, it should be understood that representations of Native Americans in captivity narratives, and especially in Hollywood cinema, have little relation to actual Native American people. Griffith’s Indians are shaped by the imagination and cultural unconscious of their creator and represent the embodiment of savage otherness. Since zombies reflect a similar (and greater) alterity, it’s not too difficult to make the leap from one form of representation (the Hollywood Indian) to another (the walking dead).

The attack on Hershel’s farm in “Beside the Dying Fire” draws on a century of heroic last stands, of desperate settlers attempting to fight off attackers with superior numbers (be they outlaws or Indians), defending the home, the last outpost of civilization, from the savage assault. There’s more than a little of Mad Max II: The Road Warrior in the staging of the attack and defense as well.

Spoiler alert!

The survivors are vanquished, the farm lost, and the still living members of the group once more on the road. In the showdown with Shane, Rick is forced to kill him, and the full  effect of that killing is still to be seen. In Rick’s final speech of the season, he chastises his fellow survivors, and declares that the group is no longer “a democracy.” That Andrew Lincoln’s performance and Rick’s speech channels the performance and speech patterns (and thought processes) of Jon Bernthal’s Shane suggests that Rick may have lost more in the fight with Shane than his best friend.

Beyond Oregon Trail: Digital Narratives of the U.S. West, Proposed Panel for the 2012 Western Literature Association Conference

Beyond Oregon Trail: Digital Narratives of the U.S. West

In science fiction and fantasy, technology often overtakes humanity and causes a loss of what is “real” and tactile. Our panel explores how the digital realm provides a forum for narratives of the U.S. West to be shaped and adapted with consequences in the world outside computers. The presentation of research will take the form of a discussion based panel. No papers will be read.
Possible topics include:
• How technology reshapes memory.
• The role of libraries as preservers of the past and moderators for shifting narratives.
• Computer games and digital environments of the West.
• How the digital world is directly impacting cultural perceptions of the U.S. West.

To submit, please send a 250 word abstract and a CV to session organizer Pamela Pierce at pampierc@indiana.edu by May 15, 2012.

Panel at Modernist Studies Conference (CFP)

For a proposed panel at the 2012 Modernist Studies Association conference in Las Vegas.

“A Society to Match The Scenery:” Spectacle and Western American Modernisms

Proposed Panel for 2012 Modernist Studies Association: Modernism and Spectacle

                                Las Vegas, NV Oct. 18-21

We are seeking papers for a panel will focus on the relationship between Western American cultural production, transnational modernism, and the spectacle.  The rise of modernism was coeval with the rise of Turnerian historiography in the United States: first delivered as a paper at the American Historical Association’s annual conference in the World’s Fair of 1892, and published in book form for the first time in 1920, Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis” posited that the frontier produced the material conditions that forged “the American character,” and that the frontier’s closing in 1890 meant an uncertain future for American life.  As Turnerian historiography argued that the historical significance of the U.S. West was declining, however, the West became an increasingly significant space for cultural representation as the nation came to define itself through the epic narratives and spectacular landscapes of the mythic West in the early 20th century.  This panel will consider how modernist cultural production in the U.S. represented the “post-frontier” U.S. West, a site where the nation is “thrown back on itself” (Turner), as a “a world that is really turned upside down” (Debord).  We welcome papers from disciplines including English, comparative literature, history, art history, and American studies.  Possible topics include:


•                The role of the mythic or historical West in the writing of “high” modernist literary figures not often associated with the regionalist study of the West; e.g. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, D.H. Lawrence or Ernest Hemingway

•                The relationship of writers more often associated with Western regionalism,(e.g. Nathanael West, Willa Cather, or Mary Austin) to transnational modernism

•                Spectacle and Western landscapes in the visual cultures of U.S. modernism; e.g. the photographs of Alfred Steiglitz or the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe

•                Spectacle and modernity in pop-cultural Western texts; e.g. the genre Western in print culture or film, regionalist Western painting, the traveling Western show, or Western performers such as Will Rogers
To submit, please send a 250 word abstract and a CV to session organizer Alex Young at alexanty@usc.edu by April 4th, 2012.



Film and History Conference (CFP)

“Frontier Myth and Iconography in the Wild West”
An area, comprised of multiple panels, for the Film & History Conference on
“Film and Myth”
September 26-30, 2012
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Deadline: June 1, 2012

The myth of the American West is often recognized as a key element in the
construction of American national identity, representing a range of
sometimes-conflicting values such as rugged independence and ingenuity,
bravery, progress, order, and the conquest of nature. Western film and
television programs have long been popular means of interpreting,
enshrining, and re-visioning the Frontier—its landscape, history, and
figures—and the nature and significance of westward expansion. Whether real
or fictional, heroes and heroines, gamblers and gunslingers, adventurers
and entrepreneurs, all play a role in the construction and promotion of
these narratives of land, nation, and cultural identity – as well as in
their challenge and reinterpretation.

How do our films and televised series portray this complex site, often
glamorized as the Wild West: As a romantic venue for adventure, or a stage
for atrocities?  A celebration of technological progress, or a lament for
the loss of wide-open spaces?  An affirmation of the triumph of
civilization, or a last glimpse of true freedom?  Whose West is the
Wildest: Turner’s or Roosevelt’s?  Kennedy’s or Reagan’s? Slotkin’s or
Altman’s?  What does it mean when other national cinema’s adapt the myth of
the frontier for purposes of their own?

This area, comprising multiple panels, welcomes all aspects of frontier
mythology and   iconography in Western films and television programs.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

•       Lawmen (Wyatt Earp, My Darling Clementine, Bat Masterson)
•       Outlaws (True Story, The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, Zorro,
The Lone Ranger)
•       Frontier Women (Calamity Jane,  Annie Get Your Gun, Dr. Quinn
Medicine Woman )
•       Legends of the Cavalry (They Died With Their Boots On, Fort Apache,
She Wore A
Yellow Ribbon)
•       Range Wars (The Johnson County War, Shane, Oklahoma, El Dorado)
•       The Civil War and the Western (The Horse Soldiers, The Good The Bad
and the Ugly, )
•       Border mythologies (The Wild Bunch, The Battle of the Alamo, The
Magnificent Seven)
•       Native American mythologies (Geronimo,  Cheyenne Autumn, Little Big
Man, Dances
With Wolves)
•       Western iconography

Please send your 200-word proposal by e-mail to the area chair:

Proposals for complete panels (three related presentations) are also
welcome, but they must include an abstract and contact information,
including an e-mail address, for each presenter. Please e-mail your
200-word proposal by June 1, 2012:

Sue Matheson, Area Chair, 2012 Film & History Conference
“Frontier Myths and Iconography”
University College of the North
Email: smatheson@ucn.ca


WLA Conference 2012 (CFP)

Tying Up “Loose Ends”

Three favorite moments from the Justified episode: “Loose Ends”

1. Boyd Crowder demonstrates that he can give a rousing campaign speech at the sheriff debate (and that he does so in favor of Deadwood actor Jim Beaver’s character Shelby makes it even better).

2. Ava demonstrates that she still knows how to use a shotgun.

3. The clip from 3:10 to Yuma (the 1957 version) that plays when Tanner Dodd’s mother turns own her new television set (the only channel available in Harlan apparently only plays black and white westerns).