Missing Rooster Cogburn

You know, like many of you, I’ve become desensitized somewhat to slurs on manhood, when I first saw that infamous Gillette ad, I didn’t quite get what was so bad. A second viewing fixed that, forever. Then came Lou Aguilar to put it all in context.

[S]omething detrimental to manhood happened in the late Sixties, planting an emasculative seed now sprouting in the loathsome new commercial by Gillette. Many of you have seen the shaving giant’s ad, nagging its male customer base for such unpardonable behavior as approving their sons’ rough play, laughing at a raunchy sitcom, or, gasp, approaching a sexy young woman, while brandishing the “MeToo” movement and “toxic masculinity” like hammer and sickle. What made Gillette think it could do this with impunity — even hiring a radical feminist filmmaker to sell razor blades while promoting pajama boy docility — has roots stretching back 50 years, from the end of a once popular genre, the Western.

We baby boomers, and our fathers and grandfathers, didn’t need Gillette and its ilk lecturing us on the liberal preference for male conduct when growing up. We had the Ringo Kid, Zorro, Wyatt Earp, Shane, Matt Dillon, Davy Crockett, Paladin, John T. Chance, Rowdy Yates, the Magnificent Seven, the Virginian, the Barkleys, and Rooster Cogburn for role models. They taught millions of us boys to be strong, tough, face down bullies, protect the weak, and absolutely respect women. Not one of those men would ever abuse or force himself on a girl, or allow less virtuous types to do so.

In the first classic Western, John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939), John Wayne’s Ringo Kid is the only man who treats prostitute Claire Trevor as a lady, shaming others into doing the same. In Ford’s next Western gem, My Darling Clementine (1946), Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) realizes Doc Holliday’s genteel ex-girlfriend, Clementine, is more vital to pacifying Tombstone than his gun. Shane and his farmer employer’s wife, Marion, never act on their growing mutual attraction, out of respect for her role of wife and mother. An older John Wayne as Sheriff John Chance in Rio Bravo (1959) gets repeatedly flummoxed by Angie Dickinson’s sexual candidness. The Magnificent Seven risk their lives, and ultimate lose four, defending a dirt poor Mexican farm village. One of the seven, Charles Bronson, delivers the greatest speech about fatherhood in all of cinema, lecturing a group of hero-worshipping young boys.

“Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun. Well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility. For you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody says they have to do this. They do this because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery.”

These were the men we baby boomers hoped to emulate in our adult life. Many of us to some extent succeeded.

You remember one of the lessons we learned from all of those films. Yep, that’s the one. There just ain’t no excuses, if you don’t get it done right, you are quite simply a failure. I’ve lived my life according to that time tested rule, as have many of you. But we’ve failed to pass it on. And this:

Yet so positively ingrained in the American male consciousness was the Western Hero, that one lone figure defied the liberal zeitgeist and continued making billions for the cigarette company he represented long after television tobacco ads got banned in 1970. The Marlboro Man rode on in print until 1999, when anti-smoking pressure and the internet finally unhorsed him. But we older guys remember him — roping a wild stallion then lighting up a cigarette, appropriately to Elmer Bernstein’s stirring theme from The Magnificent Seven. Watching him, even I wanted to smoke, and I didn’t. One of the most successful advertising creations of all time, the Marlboro Man could never occupy the same media universe as the chastened beta males currently populating the Gillette commercial. Neither can I. I threw away my Trac II in disgust.

Well, I haven’t although I considered it, but I only use the accursed thing when I have to fly somewhere, so I don’t have to buy blades for my safety razor instantly on landing. I did throw away my package of Gillette double edge blades though, I’ll stick to Wilkinson Sword from now on. If I can’t have the Marlboro Man anymore, I’ll have to make do with the defenders of Rorke’s Drift.

Myths,legends and facts

 

lvalad

Jessica wrote a post a few years ago, about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As with all of hers here it was outstanding, and makes a point, as well. First, let’s reread it.


“This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of my favourite quotations from any film, and it is what the newspaper editor, Scott, says to Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard at the end of The Man who shot Liberty Valance. Even for the great John Ford, that’s some line. Stoddard, a Washington grandee, former Ambassador to the UK and likely Presidential nominee, has come back to the town of Shinbone for the funeral of a local rancher, a nobody called Tom Doniphon, and the local press want to know why: Jimmy Stewart’s character tells them a story which is not just about how the West was won, but how it became civilized.

The story began a quarter of a century before, when what is now the State was a Territory – with men who wanted it to stay that way. The young Stoddard is held up by a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, and pistol-whipped. Doniphon, a tough local rancher, takes him back to town and sets him up with the family who run the local canteen – his love interest, Hallie helps the wounded lawyer recover, and he helps out at the canteen – eventually falling foul of Vallance – played by Lee Marvin at his brilliant best. In a scene packed with tension, Doniphon tells Valance to pick up the food that’s been spilled by him tripping ‘Ranse’ Stoddard up: it looks like there will be a shootout – but Vallance backs away – Doniphon’s that sort of a guy.

So, we have there the old West, men are men and all that. It’s rough and tough, and if you haven’t got a gun – or don’t know how to use it – you’re not going to get far – or even live long. But Stoddard is the new order’s forerunner. He believes in the law, sets up an office in Shinbone and works with the local editor as the Territory moves towards statehood.

Doniphon tries to help Stoddard adapt to the ways of the West, but an attempt to teach him how to use a gun is a failure. But Valance and his type are not to be stopped by the law. They beat up the editor and burn down the newspaper offices, and Valance challenges Stoddard to fight him. The first two shots see ‘Ranse’ injured, and he drops his gun – Valance, wanting to rub it in tells him to pick it up – sure the next shot will be right between the eyes – but to everyone’s surprise, the next shot kills Valance. Hallie runs to help the wounded Ranse. Doniphon, who actually fired the shot, sees that he has, in saving Stoddard, lost Hallie – he goes back home, drinks himself into a rage and burns his house down – being saved by his faithful retainer.

At the convention where the vote for who should represent the Territory in Washington is to be taken, Stoddard is challenged by a rival, who says that he should not be trusted because he shot a man. Stoddard hesitates, wondering if that is actually the case – should a gunfighter be a politician. Doniphon removes his doubts by telling him the truth about the man who shot Liberty Valance. The rest is history, Stoddard becomes Governor, Senator and Ambassador, marries Hallie, and has the career which opened up to men of his type as the United States moved towards its manifest destiny. Now Doniphon is dead, it is time to tell the truth – but the press don’t want the truth – the legend does them just fine.

So Doniphon, who had saved Stoddard’s life and made his career possible, dies alone and unheralded – but not quite, Hallie and Ranse have not forgotten him, or who he was, and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.

This is Ford’s world at its best – there’s no one does the old world making way for the new better. He admires the values of the old West, and he sees them re-embodied in a different form in the new. Doniphon and Stoddard are two sides of the same coin. Their integrity shines through – and Doniphon is all the more believable for not behaving like a plaster saint when he knows he has lost Hallie. Plaster saints neither won, nor will the hold, the West. And now, as then, the media prefer the legend to the facts!


Pretty much what we are seeing in the world, isn’t it? Cast Trump as Doniphon, (although one who talks quite a lot, perhaps too much, no analogy is perfect).

The never Trumpers as Stoddard, who are all for the good (conservative) things in life, but just can’t quite find the guts or skills to make them happen. In other words, they end up as all talk and no action, because their knickers are always in a twist. They’re nice guys (or they were, before getting so embittered). They were a good support during the locust (Obama) years, keeping us motivated, but when it became time to do something, well you see the result. Not entirely their fault, they have neither the temperament nor the requisite skills for this part of the mission.

So we have to go back to the old ways for a time, when Ollie Winchester and Sam Colt spoke for us, so the orators could be heard. Not literally, of course, but it is a time for plain speaking, the theoretical constructs can wait. We needed both Tom Jefferson and George Washington back in the day.

Then there is Valance – or quite a number of them.

There is the Occasional Cortex wing of the Demonrat party, who want nothing so much as to wind down this experiment called the United States, even though, or maybe because, it has been wildly successful, but didn’t give them power over others.

There’s what we have taken to calling the ‘Deep State’, the bureaucrats who think they are doing a job for us, but really are all about keeping their perks and power no matter what, and no matter who they hurt to make it so. See those guys who wanted to keep the Territory, the Territory, not a State

Then there are the legitimate opponents, foreign powers ranging from untrustworthy (sometimes) friends like Canada and the UK, to competitors like Russia and China, right on down to enemies like North Korea and Iran. These guys are at least openly fighting for themselves, but in truth, that’s about the only good thing I have to say about them.

All in all, it makes Tom Doniphan’s task in Liberty Valance look pretty simple. There is no magic target here, that will give us clear sailing, and clean up Shinbone. All we can do is keep on doing what we have done, what Doniphan, and so many others taught us to do, fight, preferably non violently, for the right thing, and keep fighting until we win through, even if it costs us the girl.

John Wayne and the American Brand

My old friend Pumabydesign picked up an article by Vassar Bushmills about John Wayne and his brand. It’s good stuff from Watchers of Weasels.

For close to ten years, in the late 60s and early 70’s, the most hated man in Hollywood was John Wayne. That’s right, the Duke. It was all about the Vietnam War, about which you never saw one contemporaneous film released except for Wayne’s “Green Berets”, a 1968 film released just as public sentiment was turning against the war because (take note) the American media, especially Walter Cronkite and CBS News, decided it was a war that could not be won, and who then took great strides to make their analysis came true.

Like the Vietnam War, Hollywood, New York and Washington were largely of one sentiment about John Wayne, only, the rub is, the rest of America loved him. And in a contest of numbers, that matters. Throughout the war period he was America’s top box office draw. He had established a “brand” by the 1960s that lives on today, and nothing those anti-war leftists could say would diminish it. And yes, Donald Trump’s presidency is in part a result of the resiliency of that brand.

It’s simple math, actually. A point that will be driven home shortly in a different context, Richard Grenier, in his 1979 elegy to John Wayne, wrote:

“But Richard Dreyfuss and Robert de Niro are known to only a small proportion of the people who knew Gary Cooper and John Wayne.”

With that alone, John Wayne could protect his brand by not having to say a word. All he had to do was continue about his business in a way that silently said “Screw you” to Hollywood and the political left, and let his brand speak for itself.

The beat goes on. Because Americans demanded such heroes, he and Coop were succeeded by others, men such as Clint Eastwood, who began his Dirty Harry franchise in 1971 after a string of spaghetti Westerns had established him as a quiet but deadly gunslinger. Over the years Eastwood’s “brand” also grew as an anti-liberal, law and order patriot, and is still an icon today.

Yep, an icon and an ideal, still for so many of us. For me growing up, dad was my hero, but you know, he represented almost the very same things that the Duke did. He just had never had time for the movies and so I wasn’t much on them either. But when I started watching some, it was John Wayne, because I already knew him.

They weren’t all guys though, how about this.

I think I might know a few women who might have said this!

Maureen O’Hara, from Ireland, was discovered by Charles Laughton and landed her first Hollywood role in 1937. By that time the “casting couch” was a fixture of the template for getting ahead there. Everyone knew. And The Harvey Weinstein-type producer-director was the template, not the exception, for Hollywood executives. But Maureen O’Hara considered this an occupational hazard and charted her course accordingly. She refused to allow directors and producers to lay a hand on her, (“to be pawed”, her words) until they finally quit trying. She threatened to quit several projects, and eventually earned the reputation of a “cold fish”, black-balled by some studios and producers. Like Wayne, she ended up being type-cast, as a strong woman figure, fiery temperament, but honorable and noble, a heroine. Just not one who would wear a pink hat in a protest march. Like Wayne, she liked her image, and with friends like Wayne and Gary Cooper was able to established an incredible brand without ever once having to lift her skirt or run off to the front office or media with an assault charge.

I’m sure it cost her some fine roles, but she didn’t like slutty roles anyway, which earned Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Fonda both Oscars. In the 40s Joan Crawford was always there to pick those up, anyway.

Like John Wayne, Miss O’Sullivan also realized her brand was immeasurably larger outside Hollywood than inside it. So “screw ’em”.

I can remember trying on the old “Everybody’s doing it” when I was a kid. I was swiftly informed that one: I wasn’t everybody, and two, I wasn’t doing it. So were the Duke and Maureen, and they didn’t, so nobody had to cower before the bullies, but they did. Well, those people always exist. We call them victims, and we pity them and then forget them. They too made their own beds and get to lie in them.

Every encounter between two people is always different, but something I’ve learned and relearned over the years, people who want to take advantage of you, in any manner, whatsoever, are bullies, and more or less evil. Many will rationalize letting them have their way, but that is your choice. You may not get the part, you may not be the most popular guy in school, but over time, things will come, and they will be due you. Because you did it, not so much ‘my way’, as the right way.

America is like that, always has been. That’s why John Wayne symbolizes America to the rest of the world. The closer we run the country to that image, the better it is for America, and Americans, but here’s the catch, the better it is for the people (although often not the government or elites) of those other countries. That’s why all those people we thought were our friends last week voted against us in the UN. It’s not their people, most of whom, if they know us, like us. Rather like the Duke and Maureen were great friends, because they are like us, trying to feed the family and do the right thing. The people that have usurped control of their countries away from the people, well they are not like us.

As the Duke would say, “Screw ’em”. And don’t get me started on what that fiery redheaded Irishwoman would do to them.

And Vassar is right, Clint Eastwood picked up the gauntlet when he started playing Dirty Harry. In fact, I’ve read that the Duke turned down the role, clearing his path.

So I guess the elites are going to have to answer that All-American question,

“Do ya feel lucky, punk?”

What is America for, Mummy?

Well we’re coming up on Christmas, and while there is plenty to write about, I’m out of the mood. This has been a year filled with winning for the old America, that many of us remember and cherish so much. Along with that I’m remembering my dearest friend, Jessica, and how she so often filled in for me here, and how I enjoyed her insights. So let’s go back to her very first post here, actually a repost from her blog, and yes, it goes to the heart of why so many of us (and not all of us Americans) love America so dearly. The last best hope. Let us hope we can live up to our legacy. Neo

[This is one of Jessica’s first posts here, I was looking through our records and it struck me that we often become bogged down in detail, in theory, in the mundane day-to-day stuff that we deal with. We tend to forget what it’s all about, and we shouldn’t. Almost from the beginning America has been a dream; a dream of freedom above all, but also of material prosperity.

It was such a potent dream that Italian peasants told each other that the streets were paved with gold, although they knew what really awaited them was hard work, and bias against them because of their language and religion but, they came anyway, and if they didn’t have much but hard work and cramped tenements, their children did. And that’s really what the dream has always been: for our children to have a better life than we did. In the nineteenth century, Russian immigrants who had never had anything but black bread, except maybe on holidays, wrote home ecstatically that “in America, we eat wheaten bread every day.” And that too was part of the saga of America.

That’s what we have built over the last 400 years, a dream of freedom, of individual liberty, yes, but also of freedom from material want by virtue of hard work. And you know, as Jess is going to tell you again here, that is really pretty damned heroic as well. Neo, 15 February 2014]

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marvelling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever; but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being struck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too. I remember a nice man smiling but saying that I couldn’t do it because I was not an American citizen.  ‘How do you get to be one of those’, I asked? ‘Well, little lady, you could always marry an all-American boy’, was the answer.  I think I said something about ‘smelly boys’ and never wanting to get married because I wanted to be a nun. But a bit later I recall thinking that maybe the kind man had a point.  America, the very idea, seemed Romantic.

My father was fifty when I was born, and his tastes in movies became mine. When other teenage girls were swooning about Kevin Costner (really???), I was dismissive. John Wayne was my hero – and remains so. He summed up America for me. Strong, but never boastful about it. I remember crying when I saw ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’ – it was so unfair – it was Tom Donovan, not Ransom Stoddard who shot Liberty Valance, so why did the latter end up with the girl? Huh, I remember thinking, if I had been ‘the girl’ there was no way I’d have chosen Jimmy Stewart over John Wayne – what was she thinking?  But, as Tom Donovan might have said: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim”.

The film’s message, which passed me by in my indignation, was about the passing of the old West, and the place of myth in the making of a nation. America is a nation build around myths and legends. That is not to say they are wrong, it is to say that those movies told a bigger story about the making of a great nation and what made it that. All nations need myths, and the point about the American one seemed to be encapsulated in my second favourite John Wayne film – ‘She wore a Yellow ribbon.’ Captain Nathan Brittles was the quintessential quiet American. A man who, having lost his family, was married to army, and who did his duty, no matter what. My teenage heart went out to him, and I was very sniffy about the heroine going off with those ‘boys’ rather than a ‘real man’.

What John Ford caught in those films – especially the great trilogy which began with ‘Fort Apache’ and ended with ‘Rio Grande’ – was the very idea of America.  Call me a Romantic (no, do) – but that idea of America remains with me to this day. God Bless America – the land of the free.

[I think Jess is very right, America is romantic, and yes, you can call me one too. But if we take the romance, and yes the legend and the saga out of our history, we are left with a strip of dirt, and just another group of people. That’s not my America, either. Here’s a piece of the legend. Neo]

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Unobama

In writing about the speech at the UN that is what Scott Johnson at PowerLine calls President Trump. I think he’s correct. There is as we all said, much to like in the speech, but other than ‘Rocketman’, there is little new. Most of the themes are classic American policy, and therefore not what Obama was selling. Obama was an aberration, a creation, mostly, I think, of our troubled race history, or rather how our race history is perceived by many, mostly to their benefit.

There is nothing revolutionary, or even unusual about this, for example:

In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch. This week gives our country a special reason to take pride in that example. We are celebrating the 230th anniversary of our beloved Constitution — the oldest constitution still in use in the world today.

This timeless document has been the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom for the Americans and for countless millions around the globe whose own countries have found inspiration in its respect for human nature, human dignity, and the rule of law.

The greatest in the United States Constitution is its first three beautiful words. They are: “We the people.”

Generations of Americans have sacrificed to maintain the promise of those words, the promise of our country, and of our great history. In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign. I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people, where it belongs.

That’s simple ground truth, although a lot of politicians likely would wish it otherwise. But its not, it’s who we are and who we have always been. So is this:

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.

Or this

We will stop radical Islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation, and indeed to tear up the entire world.

Or especially this

One of the greatest American patriots, John Adams, wrote that the American Revolution was “effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

That was the moment when America awoke, when we looked around and understood that we were a nation. We realized who we were, what we valued, and what we would give our lives to defend. From its very first moments, the American story is the story of what is possible when people take ownership of their future.

The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism.

There’s not much in any of that to gladden a Neo-con’s heart. I don’t see him going out into the world looking for a fight. But neither is he going to hide in the basement and wait for the UN. The image we all use so often is correct, “There is a new sheriff in town”. And his job is the restoration of the rule of law, and that is what he was elected to do. America is lucky (although we made that luck, with hard work), we don’t really need the world, we could get on pretty good all by ourselves. That’s not true for almost anybody else in the world, and that too is why America leads.

But in the final analysis (for now), John Wayne, as J.B. Books in The Shootist outlined proper American foreign policy as well as anyone.

I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them

I think President Trump understands that quite well.

What is America for mummy?

This is one of my former coblogger Jessica’s first posts here, and one of my favorites. She had a great deal to do with how this blog has developed over the years, and, in truth, with my outlook on many things, as well. In it she tells us of something that is hard for us to see in ourselves, and yet is obvious to many of our visitors. It is a wonderful article, so enjoy. Neo

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marvelling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever; but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being stuck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too. I remember a nice man smiling but saying that I couldn’t do it because I was not an American citizen.  ‘How do you get to be one of those’, I asked? ‘Well, little lady, you could always marry an all-American boy’, was the answer.  I think I said something about ‘smelly boys’ and never wanting to get married because I wanted to be a nun. But a bit later I recall thinking that maybe the kind man had had a point.  America, the very idea, seemed Romantic.

My father was fifty when I was born, and his tastes in movies became mine. When other teenage girls were swooning about Kevin Costner (really???), I was dismissive. John Wayne was my hero – and remains so. He summed up America for me. Strong, but never boastful about it. I remember crying when I saw ‘The Man who shot Liberty Vallance’ – it was so unfair – it was Tom Donovan, not Ransom Stoddard who shot Liberty Vallance, so why did the latter end up with the girl? Huh, I remember thinking, if I had been ‘the girl’ there was no way I’d have chosen Jimmy Stewart over John Wayne – what was she thinking?  But, as Tom Donovan might have said: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim”.

The film’s message, which passed me by in my indignation, was about the passing of the old West, and the place of myth in the making of a nation. America is a nation build around myths and legends. That is not to say they are wrong, it is to say that those movies told a bigger story about the making of a great nation and what made it that. All nations need myths, and the point about the American one seemed to be encapsulated in my second favourite John Wayne film – ‘She wore a Yellow ribbon.’ Captain Nathan Brittles was the quintessential quiet American. A man who, having lost his family, was married to army, and who did his duty, no matter what. My teenage heart went out to him, and I was very sniffy about the heroine going off with those ‘boys’ rather than a ‘real man’.

What John Ford caught in those films – especially the great trilogy which began with ‘Fort Apache’ and ended with ‘Rio Grande’ – was the very idea of America.  Call me a Romantic (no, do) – but that idea of America remains with me to this day. God Bless America – the land of the free.

%d bloggers like this: