Guy Cry Westerns

Some Westerns really have a way of pulling on the heart strings.

The goal of this series is to show that being “manly” and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies often times have the potential to make guys cry, for example:

Westerns

Pretty sure the modern stereotype of what’s considered “manly” came from Western movies. The super-macho, brush-your-teeth-with-dirt, doesn’t-cry-at-anything, die-with-your-boots-on dynamo is a fantasy born from this genre romanticizing a portion of America’s history. Through this romanticism, however, we are compelled to watch these fictional characters as they simultaneously drip testosterone and exude reserve. The marriage of restraint and intimidation the Western film hero employs have made the genre uniquely accessible to men. Does that mean any man who enjoys a Western couldn’t possibly cry at one? Here are 5 examples of why Westerns make guys cry more often than

1. Tombstone

This is a classic Western despite only being released in 1993. Sam Rockwell and Kurt Russell are in it so you know it’s good. Bill Paxton is in it so you know it exists (he’s in everything). This film features the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral. I bet even those who’ve never seen the film know of this gunfight, so you can imagine the historical pop culture creep they were working with. We’ve got manly archetypes such as “retired lawman who comes back due to injustice,” and “man with failing health that still draws his gun faster than the bad guys.” It’s a how-to manual for macho.

But with every sunrise comes a sunset, and despite the uber-macho that Val “Doc Holliday” Kilmer throws across the screen, the film ends with him in a sanatorium. Before death, he remarks at the oddity that he’s dying with his boots off. This was a sobering reminder that no matter how invincible men feel in real life, there’s a power that’s going to get them in the end regardless. We cried for Doc, wishing he died on his feet. Wishing he died with the dignity that he valued so much. More than that, we wish he could have died with more than just Wyatt Earp to mourn him.

2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Good god, this title. The fascinating thing about this is that the plot is similar to The Incredibles. Robert Ford is enamored with Jesse James, this fascinating outlaw that Robert wants to be just like. As fate would have it, Jesse is convinced by his friend Charlie (Hey kids, its Sam Rockwell again!) to let his little brother Robert into his gang. “Hurray,” said Robert, “Now to shoot him in the back of the head and collect the reward money!” as any good psychopath would.

Naturally not only does Robert not get the reward money he was promised, but his fame is that of infamy. As you can gauge from the title, Robert’s not remembered that fondly, and he was heckled until Charlie commits suicide and Robert is murdered. It’s such a thin line in Westerns to make outlaws lovable while still outlaws, but this film nailed it. You hate Casey (Rob Ford) Affleck for what he did, yet still feel sorry for him at the multitude of failures that he will forever be known for. In the end, he wanted to be a bigger legend than the man he killed and he only accomplished becoming the most famous coward in the old west. A destroyed legacy is the worst death of all.

3. True Grit (2010)

I truly believe the new one is better than the original. Deal with it. Regardless, Jeff Bridges, my close personal friend (I’ll tell you about it sometime) rocks the Western motif so hard it almost kills Matt Damon. From his drawl to his world-weary demeanor, it’s almost comical how much “Western-ness” exudes from his every word. This is a man who drinks to forget what he’s done, but hasn’t lost the ability to do it again.

The plot revolves around the daughter of a man killed by Josh “I’m a villain” Brolin. She hires Jeff “Rooster” Bridges, because why wouldn’t you? Keep in mind, this is a man that is so manly, his name is Rooster but we still think he’s cool.

Near the end, the girl gets hurt. Bridges needs to get her to a doctor, miles away, so he puts her on his horse and rides. He pushes his horse so hard it collapses, and he is forced to shoot the animal. He then (while being old, fat, wounded, and damn tired) picks her up and runs her the rest of the way himself, for what must have been an entire day and night. This is a tremendously powerful scene, a physically unfit man who has shown no remorse or care for anyone else, pushing himself past exhaustion to save this little girl. It’s great.

4. The Searchers

I couldn’t get through a list of Westerns without including the Duke. John Wayne was in 1,946 Westerns (don’t check my math on that), and at least half of them were great. This one is in that category.

This is one of those films that has Native Americans in one of two unfortunate stereotypes: they can either be magical pipe-smokers, or evil savages. I’ll let you guess which one it is, but a hint is that they’re the bad guys. John Wayne’s neighbor loses some cattle, and Wayne rides with him to find them. If only he had listened to a certain fishy admiral, because IT WAS A TRAP! Upon returning the Duke’s family is either kidnapped or dead. Well, there’s nothing to do with the dead ones, so let’s go search for the kidnapped ones. SEE, THAT’S WHY IT’S CALLED THE SEARCHERS!

Wayne goes through quite a bit trying to find this girl, and years later he finally does. All’s well that ends well, right? Well, here’s the rub: after years of being indoctrinated as one of the wives of a Comanche chief, his niece knows no other life and wishes to remain with the tribe. Ever the hater of Comanche raiders, Wayne tries to kill the very loved one he has been searching for while her brother tries desperately to protect her. It’s a sickening moment, full of irrational emotion and desperation.

5. Shane

A skilled gunslinger with a mysterious past rides into town. Is there any other kind? Our mysterious stranger takes up as a farm hand on a farm that is under attack by a bad guy who wants the farm…good god this is built on cliché!

The only reason I put this on the list is the ending. The boy from the farm idolized this stranger after being saved by him and doesn’t want him to leave. The stranger rides off anyways, dripping blood and slumping over on his horse. It’s unclear if the boy even has a concept that the stranger is dying, and keeps calling for him to stay. Someone…someone get me a tissue.

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Check out more Guy Cry Cinema or watch Dan on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what’s really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.

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