Friday, August 25, 2017 - The Western as a genre has long celebrated hard-scrabble men who can squint into the distance and distill the workings of the world into a single, pithy phrase.
“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” says a frustrated newspaperman towards the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), relenting before the heroic, whitewashed image of a popular politician.
“In this world there’s two kinds of people,” Clint Eastwood’s Blondie explains to his unarmed opponent as they search for buried treasure in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966). “Those with loaded guns and those who dig.”
In Westerns, these carefully placed aphorisms tend to shed as much light on the characters who speak them as on the world they seek to describe. For these cigarillo-chomping vigilantes, the world is understandable, but fatalistic and unforgiving. The best and only way to survive is to follow the rules obediently, however painful and merciless they may be.