Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West in Popular Culture

By Cooper, B. Lee | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West in Popular Culture


Cooper, B. Lee, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West in Popular Culture. Richard Aquila, ed. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996. 313 pp. Illustrated. $29.95.

Ball State University historian Richard Aquila has assembled a fascinating, informative profile of the American West. Although his approach is neither historical nor geographical, it nonetheless features both traditional characters (Buffalo Bill Cody, George Armstrong Custer, Annie Oakley, and Crazy Horse) and scenes of sagebrush, Rocky Mountain peaks, and desert cactus. Aquila uses novels, wild west shows, motion pictures, television programs, popular music, and commercial art to probe the "Popular Culture West" that fostered a distinctive state of mind and monumentally mythic ideas about the region. The perceptive contributors to this unique anthology detail the foundations of America's love afair with cowboys, wide open spaces, personal freedom, and the simplicity of frontier justice.

The ten chapters in Wanted Dead or Alive are provocative and fact-filled. Coverage of feature films and TV Westerns by John H. Lenihan, Ray White, and Gary A. Yoggy is especially inriguing. …

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