Masculinity in the post-war western : John Wayne and Clint Eastwood
Together, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are the most prominent defining icons of the Western genre. As resonant American cultural icons, their respective images are determined by, and signify, aspects of Americanism, the Western, and masculinity. By examining the gendered identities adopted by Wayne and Eastwood in their Westerns, I hope to identify the extent to which their characterisationss, panning the historical periods marked by the Westerns! prominence, decline, and ultimate fall, attest to the cultural underpinning of the genre's representation of gender, revealing the manner in which a definitively American genre offered portrayals of gender that resonated in the wider American culture. Following a review of critical work undertaken on the genre, masculinity , and stars,I will proceed to examine the negotiation of masculinity in the roles played by Wayne and Eastwood in the Western from 1948 to 1976 in the case of the former, and 1964 to 1992 in the case of the latter. With reference to the structural approach adopted for each star, Eastwood's films invite a chronological analysis, owing to the chronological development of his screen persona, in which the Eastwood hero is variously typified as broadly parodic, castrated, vengeful, and paradoxical; Wayne's films evidence an oscillating type of characterisation, which for the most part defies a chronological analysis. Consequently, his films from 1948 to 1963 will be addressed in a non-linear, thematic fashion, based on the alternately 'good' and 'bad', or coherent and incoherent, representations of the paternal identity which formed the determining aspect of Wayne's persona. His post- 1969 films, which invite a more chronological analysis, will be separately considered as evidencing a more stable representation oIf the paternal identity. The Shoolist, as Wayne's last film, will be considered on an individual basis. While Wayne and Eastwood portray very different 'types' of the Western hero, as the alternative structural approaches described above suggests, the resonance of their gendered representations unites them, and merits a sustained analysis of both.