Modern Western: What’s the Deal?


The Modern Western genre is a darker, grittier, more mature version of what it used to be. The Western genre for most people could probably be described as spoof comedy of the past, but in lots of cases with modern western’s, it is now a much different take on the frontier of our history. Western was a pretty basic genre, not anything more than a retelling of history, which can sometimes be less interesting, though not always. But it can become so much more. It brings new questions to known controversies and events. With topics like slavery, and outlaws, or even the trek across the west. Movies like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs or Django Unchained leave audiences emotionally jarred, sometimes in ways for the better. In Django Unchained the idea of a freed slave, becoming a bounty hunter and then acting as a slave owner himself to save his wife from the plantation she was sent to when they were separated, is crazy. The idea is so interesting and seeing it play out is a journey, to say the least, and it’s so dark, but it has to be under the circumstances. But the Modern Western genre explores difficult topics spanning all groups of people across the west. In The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, there are six different stories showing the hardships and successes of the frontier for people of all walks of life. One story details events for a disabled man, having to rely on another man to survive, and in doing so has to work for him, or more specifically, perform as an actor of sorts, the premise itself is already dark but on top of that, once the man is done with his performer, he disposes of him. Another story details the story of a woman traveling with her brother to Oregon. The woman’s brother dies toward the beginning of the story and she must now fend for herself. She speaks with one of the lead men of the expedition and he helps her as they go. Soon they fall in love but their romance is cut short. The woman wanders off and encounters a group of Native Americans. The older lead man of the expedition finds her and tries to save her, but to no avail. And these are only summaries of deeply emotional complex stories. The Western genre is ever-changing, it can be a Spaghetti comedy, not really taking itself seriously, or it can be a dark emotional journey that leaves audiences feeling vulnerable. But with every dark western there’s also a spoof. Movies like The Ridiculous Six and Rango are perfect examples of this. They don’t always take realistic approaches and they allow laughing to exist within their respective universes. This Modern Western genre isn’t really one thing. It takes on multiple forms per the viewer’s taste, so no matter what you are into it will accommodate. So explore! You might just find you like something you didn’t think you would.