Western movie genre & racism

A few years ago, I had one of those FB kind of disputes with a local film professor here, a know-it-all kind of guy who loved western movies. As a film historian of rather obtuse intellect, he was impressed by cinematic attempts to reconstruct the genre into manly adventure tales.

I consider westerns irredeemably racist & think it impossible to remodel them without that feature because the history they represent, albeit in a distorted way, is the violent colonial appropriation of North America. They are also a supremely male form of entertainment since women figure so irrelevantly in them–mostly as dance hall girls in saloons.

They already embody the essential lies we are taught, the origin myths we are bred on. So extracting racism from them would mean erasing every last trace of the wars of extermination of Native Americans, usually portrayed as a war of advanced civilization against primitive savagery.

Media must borrow on their misrepresentations of Indian resistance to colonialism for portrayals of Palestinians & Kashmiris because Indian characters are also frequently portrayed as isolated, anti-social, savage mavericks.

Watching an old western movie on TV is what brings this to mind. Studying Native American history is what made me first aware of the problems society has in what to call the oppressed. Every history text seems to begin by justifying the particular name the historian will use for them since it is a disputed issue. Just like what to call Blacks, Latinos, oppressed castes, or women is an issue since for all of us there are hundreds of epithetical insults & a few respectful names that keep getting changed or that many mix up with the epithets. It’s how language embodies oppression.