Friday, February 15, 2013

Ethan and Josey as Western Heroes

John Ford's The Searchers and Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales are both Western films which when you take a quick gander at, seem to have quite similar story lines. In an article by Robert Sickles, it is suggested that these two films both have similarities but for the most part, they differ dramatically due to their differing moral, social, and political views. Additionally, Sickles shows how the time difference greatly affects the perspectives and biases. I agree with Robert Sickles in thinking that these two characters and films reflect the cultural values of the time periods they were made in.

Josey Wales is like an updated version of The Searches. In his article, Robert Sickles says: "Josey Wales is not so much a rehash of The Searches as it is a response, a detailed reworking of a twenty-year-old film in the context of 1970s liberalism." In The Outlaw Josey Wales, when Jamie dies due to his wounds, Josey finds a new friend to replace him: the chief comanche. Josey Wales, obviously angered about the death of his whole family, agrees with the chief that no one can trust the white man. In this interaction we see a clear reversal (siding with the Indians, versus being completely against them) of what takes place in The Searchers- and this reversal is definitely fueled by the change in social views of the 1970s.

Sickles presents how both films have similar revenge motifs, but the biggest difference is thematic perspective: Ethan is the pursuer whereas Josey is the one pursued. I feel as though Josey is a much more relatable character because we have access to his emotions and having him play the character who is danger (rather than being in a position like Ethan) makes us worry for him. I feel as though Clint Eastwood must of been aware of this major difference in his film rather than the Searchers because this having access to Josey's emotions seems almost like a fix to Ethan's character.

In many instances Josey Wales is able to trust and believe in  the situations around him whereas Ethan rejects everything. Some clear examples that Robert Sickes present include: Josey willingly allows Jamie to join him in his adventure, whereas Ethan tries hard to get rid of Martin. Another example is that in both films we see the characters have dangerous interactions with hillbillies. Josey and Jamie work together to escape, while Ethan utilizes Martin as a bait. Having Josey be a softer, more accepting character seems to be fueled by the changing view of how a heroic man should appear. 


  1. You talk about these two films reflect the culture of the time period. Compare these two characters' different way to treat the Indian. You said that Josey is a relatable person and softer. The above shows that you like Josey Wales.

  2. Clarify: It all seems very clear to me.

    Values: "Josey Wales is like an updated version of The Searchers." I like this statement and how you back it up with the quotation about Josey Wales being a "reworking/response" to The Searchers. Following from that, I like how you focused part of your review specifically on relationship between each character and the time period in which each movie was shot. This added a lot of depth to the topics being covered.

    Concerns/Suggestions: A small thing, but it might be helpful if you tied in how the social views changed during the 70s. Right now, it's kind of left up to interpretation. This works, but it could help in making your point if you were more explicit as to what exactly these changes were. That way, the ways in which Josey Wales reflected these changes would become clearer.

  3. Clarify—Everything is very clearly written. I don’t have any questions.

    Value—I really like the point you make at the end about changing expectations on what a hero and man should be. Usually when we talk about gender representations we talk about women, but there’s also a lot to be said about the changing ideals of masculinity, from the aggressive, invulnerable (and—in my opinion—insufferable) Ethan to the caring family-man Josey.

    Concern—One thing I didn’t really talk about in my post was the fact that Josey is being pursued, and not the pursuer. I think it’s definitely an important point, but I would argue that the reason Josey is a more relatable character is not the fact that he is fleeing danger, but simply the amount of access we get to his emotions. I think we’d find him more compelling even if he was the hunter, because we see how devastated he is by the death of his family, so we feel for him, whereas Ethan never shows sadness at his sister-in-law’s death.

    Suggest—Going from my value: you bring up an interesting point, but don’t really go into it very thoroughly. You could expand on that, and look at how masculinity is represented with other male characters (such as the villains).