You are hereBlogs / dlindorff's blog / Spinning a Popular American Image: John Wayne, the New Economy and the American Male Worker

Spinning a Popular American Image: John Wayne, the New Economy and the American Male Worker


By dlindorff - Posted on 27 July 2013

By John Grant


The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.
-- D.H. Lawrence

 

The moderate conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote a column titled “Men on the Threshold” employing a famous image of John Wayne in the 1956 film The Searchers as a symbol of the American male worker facing a growing crisis of unemployment.


Brooks certainly has the right to do what he likes with such mythic imagery. And he writes, “Classics can be interpreted in different ways.” But in this instance, in the name of truth and justice, he should be brought up on charges of premeditated and aggravated misuse of myth.


Ethan Edwards is considered Wayne’s best acting role. There’s none of the usual John Wayne swaggering big-man nonsense with sidekicks like Dean Martin or Fabian. Here, he’s a mean and cruel sonuvabitch who sets out with a younger man across the barren Texas plains to find a girl kidnapped by Indians whose family they had massacred. The search lasts seven years. We learn he intends to kill the girl (Natalie Wood) once he finds her, since she has been ruined by becoming the sexual mate of an Indian.

In the end, Edwards softens enough to return the girl to her family. In the famous scene at the end, Edwards stands silhouetted in the doorway of a rough home with the dusty Texas plains behind him. While the family is rejoicing and welcoming its lost daughter back into the fold of civilization, Edwards stands alone, apparently unable to enter. As the popular interpretation goes, his hard cold-bloodedness was what brought the girl back to civilization, but that same violent temperament won’t permit him to fit into the domestic scene inside. He turns and walks off, presumably to find other frontiers.

No argument, this is a powerful image of American history and Manifest Destiny from a truly magnificent classic film. But, let’s not kid ourselves and New York Times readers, it has nothing to do with the plight of American male workers in 2013. It’s a case of expropriating a classic, tough masculine image from popular culture to represent a theme Brooks wants to emphasize. At best, it’s facile; at worst, cynically opportunistic.

First off, Brooks passes over, or willfully ignores, the unpleasant historic reality that no one disputes is symbolized by what he calls the Ethan Edwards character’s “pre-political virtues.” Those virtues include violent cruelty and the capacity “to mete out justice on his own” -- plus a considerable dose of racism.


For the rest of this article by JOHN GRANT in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent three-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1884

Speaking Events

2016

War Is A Lie: Second Edition
Book Tour

May 19, Sarasota, FL, 7:00 p.m. Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center 525 Kumquat Court, Sarasota, FL

May 20, Jacksonville, FL, 7:00 p.m., Florida Christian Center Auditorium, 1115 Edgewood Ave S, Jacksonville, FL 32205, (904) 381-4800.

May 21, Gainesville, FL
7:00 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, Florida
4225 NW 34th St, Gainesville, FL 32605
(352) 377-1669
Sign up on FB.


May 28, San Francisco, CA
11 a.m. to 1 p.m., David Swanson interviewed by Daniel Ellsberg, at San Francisco Main Public Library, 100 Larkin Street.
Sign up on FB.

May 28, Marin County, CA
4 to 6 p.m., David Swanson in conversation with Norman Solomon, at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA
Sign up on FB.

May 29, Oakland, CA
3 to 4 p.m., David Swanson interviewed by Cindy Sheehan, at Diesel: A Bookstore, 5433 College Avenue at Kales (near Manila), Oakland, CA
Sign up on FB.

May 29, Berkeley, CA
7:30 to 9 p.m., David Swanson and Cindy Sheehan at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, sponsored by the Social Justice Committee and Cynthia Papermaster, 1606 Bonita Ave. (at Cedar), Berkeley, CA
Sign up on FB.

May 30, Fresno, CA
2 to 4 p.m., David Swanson and Cindy Sheehan at a Peace Fresno event
Community United Church of Christ
5550 N. Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93710


June 11 St. Paul, MN, 6 p.m. at Macalester Plymouth Church Social Hall 1658 Lincoln, St. Paul, MN.
Sign up on FB.

June 12 Minneapolis, MN, 9 and 11 a.m. at St. Joan's 4533 3rd Ave So, Minneapolis, MN, plus peace pole dedication at 2 p.m.
Sign up on FB.


Other Events Here.

CHOOSE LANGUAGE

Support This Site

Donate.

Get free books and gear when you become a supporter.

 

Sponsors:

Speaking Truth to Empire

***

Families United

***

Ray McGovern

***

Financial supporters of this site can choose to be listed here.

Buy Books

Get Gear

The log-in box below is only for bloggers. Nobody else will be able to log in because we have not figured out how to stop voluminous spam ruining the site. If you would like us to have the resources to figure that out please donate. If you would like to receive occasional emails please sign up. If you would like to be a blogger here please send your resume.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.