Postmodern Thought and the Rodeo

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 6, 2010 | Go to article overview

Postmodern Thought and the Rodeo


Byline: Lauren Weiner, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In the 1957 movie Decision at Sundown, Randolph Scott's amiable sidekick, Noah Beery Jr., says of the bad guy:

He's got that town in his fist, and he's squeezin' it hard.

You could say the same of Robert B. Pippin and his subject matter. The professor of social thought at the University of Chicago runs classic cowboy movies through his interpretive wringer and, well, the results ain't pretty.

Hollywood Westerns and American Myth: The Importance of Howard Hawks and John Ford for Political Philosophy derives from lectures Mr. Pippin gave to an academic audience. Not much was done to clear away the obscurities, so we are left with a discussion that sounds like this:

To say all at once the point I am trying to make: The mythic struggle we have been watching is itself the result of a kind of self-mythologization (exactly like the Tales of Early Texas myth 'inside' the film's own mythic narration), a fantasy narrative frame that is also demythologizing itself in front of us.

Don't get me wrong; what the late, great critic Robert Warshow called the deeper seriousness of the good Western films does rate the attention of intellectuals. We even can learn from what they say about the frontier horseman and his lonely code of honor. Warshow - who was not a postmodernist academic like Mr. Pippin - wrote that when the hero of The Virginian has to decide whether to hang his best friend for stealing cattle, he is faced with conflicting moral absolutes and the choice of either must leave a moral stain.

Warshow is cited in this book. That is to Mr. Pippin's credit. But whether his postmodern musings add much - either to what Warshow said or to moviegoers' instinctive awareness that the Westerns most dear to their hearts are highly nuanced stories and not gung-ho celebrations of America - is unclear. When I say unclear, I mean as murky as what is poured into the trough to feed the livestock. The text reads like a rough draft, full of repetitions, run-on sentences and inartful skippings-around.

Mr. Pippin will take the reader inside the plot of a movie but then suddenly veer, midsentence, to refer to how parts of the movie were received by critics. Moreover, in a book that is mainly about John Ford, the elevation of Howard Hawks to the subtitle seems arbitrary. Not much more is said of Hawks than is said of Fred Zinnemann, Nicholas Ray, King Vidor, Budd Boetticher and Anthony Mann, all of whom directed famous and/or worthy films about the frontier or the post-frontier world of the rodeo rider.

Nor does the author wear his erudition lightly. As frequent as the scholarly references are, they are seldom developed, which keeps them from seeming relevant. Mr. Pippin tries, for example, to get us to accept more readily his assertion that the role played by Montgomery Clift in Red River is a mythic one (that of the foundling) by directing us, in a footnote, to Carl Jung and somebody called Kerenyi on the special phenomenology of the child archetype. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Postmodern Thought and the Rodeo
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.