Entertainment is ideology. Whether it was Gary Cooper in High Noon or the Marx Brothers Go West, the white man was conceiving and furthering his own myth. The frontier mentality. The New World. These cultural myths usually encapsulate the dominant values of society, naturalizing them as natural while running roughshod over others. The Western is particular to America and a powerful cultural myth for rugged individualism and in the Wild Bunch as a last refuge for men of a previous time whom the modern age is forcing into irrelevancy. The film is a cliche ridden explosion of the genre, yet it also represents a turn of the century onslaught of nihilism as new directions were forged, only to die and be reinvented. The Wild Bunch did not die in Mexico, they were merely resting, waiting to be resurrected and redeemed. Peckinpah follows convention by demonizing the “other” taking away their right to be rounded, full fledged characters within their own culture, but in a sense, how different are these Mexicans from the drug lords of today?
And Peckinpah’s portrayal of the White Man differs little from American militarism in Mexico, the appropriation of land by force, and a general imperialism without the pretense of moral authority or manifest destiny. After all, western films are less about given periods in American history, and more about our exceptional nature and that in the long run, the ends will have justified the means, and that winning the west through The Wild Bunch or diplomacy is part of the same process. A civilization that is pushing into the wilderness, the wild, which is a mythic construction eschewing other terms of living outside of the Anglo-American purview, is always bourgeois white American society and its feelings of inadequacy and sense of being threatened. Peckinpah may have also used he film to show a dissolution in the dominance of white WASP America and there sense of being invaded by hordes of slavs, and Eastern Europeans; near whites…
No, Peckinpah knew alcohol. He spoke it’s language.
Two of the best examples of what I’m talking about can be seen in his epic masterpiece The Wild Bunch. (I’ll forego a plot synopsis, but if you haven’t seen it, you’ve done yourself a great disservice.) Looked at side by side, you can see clearly the depth of Peckinpah’s understanding of, not only intoxication, but of human psychology in general….
…Near the end of the movie, just before the Bunch (William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates and Ben Johnson) decide they must rescue their captured comrade, Angel (Jaime Sanchez) from General Mapache (Emilio Fernandez), Holden is shown in the dim confines of a prostitute’s room, where he has spent the night. He sits on a cot, half dressed, polishing off the contents of a bottle. He has decided to save Angel, and will sacrifice himself if need be, to save what little is left of his honor. He stares into the bottle, then at the girl, then at the bottle. There is courage in there, yes, but there is more. He can see his past in the mirror of swirling liquid, his mistakes, his failures. Grimacing, he kills the bottle and tosses it aside. He is steeled now for action, having seen himself in liquor’s magic mirror. He pays the girl and leaves. Read More:http://drunkard.com/issues/03_06/0306_peckinpah.html