, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 277–288 | Cite as

Placing man in the New West: Masculinities of The Last Picture Show

  • Grayson Holmes
  • Leo Zonn
  • Altha J. CraveyEmail author


The Last Picture Show does not fall within the genre of the Western, yet the cinematic narrative mourns the loss of the iconic Westerner — a man — and the passing of his home places that constitute the Old West. This paper is concerned with the ways in which this man and his places are transformed along with the embryonic but inexorable emergence of the New West — and its attendant demand for recognition of hitherto unheard voices (e.g., women, Latinos) — that accompanied significant social, cultural and political shifts that were beginning to emerge within the country as a whole in the represented early 1950s. His represented sites of contestation are found within the frame of the small west Texas town of Anarene, created by Larry McMurtry's novel of the same name as the film, both of which reflect contexts of the era in which they were constructed — the mid 1960s to early 1970s. We suggest that the film shows a great sensitivity to the ways in which particular masculinities are constituted in specific places, to the tensions that arise from the changing nature and definitions of masculinity as they are linked to these places, and with his sense of nostalgia and loss that accompanies his inevitable decline. But there is no clear and empowered place for women in these new places, only a recontextualized form of a patriarchal order which is not relational and which still maintains essentialist assumptions of gender. The Old West has taken new shape, much to the chagrin of man, but it is hardly a New West, with its emerging and representative voices.

cinematic geographies gender masculinities places of contestation Old West-New West 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams P., 1992: Television as gathering place. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 82: 117–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams R. and Savran D., 2002: The Masculinity Studies Reader. Blackwell Studies Publisher, London.Google Scholar
  3. Aitken S. and Lukinbeal C., 1998: Of heroes, fools and Fisher Kings: Cinematic representations of street myths and hysterical males. In: Fyfe N. (ed.), Images of the Street, pp. 141–159. Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  4. Aitken S. and Zonn L. (eds), 1994: Place, Power, Situation, and Spectacle: A Geography of Film. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland.Google Scholar
  5. Berg L. and Longhurst R., Forthcoming: Placing masculinities and geography. Gender, Place and Culture.Google Scholar
  6. Blunt A., 1994: Travel, Gender and Imperialism: Mary Kingsley and West Africa. Guilford, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Canby V., October 17, 1971: A Lovely 'Show.' New York Times. NewYork: New York Times. Section II, p. 1.Google Scholar
  8. Cawelti J., 1999: The Six-Gun Mystique Sequel. Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Bowling Green, Ohio.Google Scholar
  9. Clarke D.B. (ed.), 1997: The Cinematic City. Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  10. Connell R.W., 1995: Masculinities. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  11. Cravey A., 1998: Women and Work in Mexico's Maquiladoras. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland.Google Scholar
  12. Cresswell T. and Dixon D. (eds), 2002: Engaging Film: Geographies of Mobility and Identity. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland.Google Scholar
  13. Degenfelder E.P., 1975: McMurtry and the Movies: Hud and The Last Picture Show. Western Humanities Review 29: 81–91.Google Scholar
  14. Dahlman C., 2002: Masculinity in conflict: Geopolitics and performativity in The Crying Game. In: Cresswell T. and Dixon D. (eds), Engaging Film: Geographies of Mobility and Identity, pp. 123–139. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland.Google Scholar
  15. Domosh M. and Seager J., 2001: Putting Women in Place: Feminist Geographers Make Sense of the World. The Guilford Press, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Dowling R. and Pratt P., 1993: Home truths: Recent feminist constructions. Urban Geography 14: 464–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elam D., 1994: Feminism and Deconstructionism: Ms. En Abyme. Routledge, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Etulain R., 1996: Re-Imagining the American West: A Century of Fiction, History, and Art. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.Google Scholar
  19. Etulain R., 1999: Telling Western Stories: From Buffalo Bill to Larry McMurtry. The University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.Google Scholar
  20. Frisk J. and Robinson F.G., 1997: Introduction. In: Robinson F.G. (ed.), The New Western History: The Territory Ahead, pp. 1–15. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.Google Scholar
  21. Gardiner J.K., 2002: Masculinity Studies and Feminist Theory. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  22. Graham D., 1999 (February): Picture Perfect. Texas Monthly. Online. Accessed 11/20/2000: 77-79, 106–111.Google Scholar
  23. Harris T., 1990: Bogdanovich's Picture Shows. The Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  24. Hitt J., 1990: The American West from Fiction (1823-1976) into Film (1909-1986). McFarland & Co., Inc. Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina.Google Scholar
  25. Jackson P., 1994: Black male: Advertising and the cultural politics of masculinity. Gender, Place and Culture 1: 49–59.Google Scholar
  26. Jackson P., Stevenson N. and Brooks K., 1999: Making sense of men's lifestyle magazines. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 17: 353–368.Google Scholar
  27. Jackson P. Stevenson N. and Brooks K., 2001: Making Sense of Men's Magazines. Polity Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  28. Johnston R.J., Gregory D., Pratt G. and Watts M., 2000: The Dictionary of Human Geography. Blackwell, Malden, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  29. Jones J., 2001: Finding a place at the downtown picture palace: The Tampa Theater, Florida'. In: Shiel M. and Fitzmaurice T. (eds), Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, pp. 122–113. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.Google Scholar
  30. Jones J., 2003: The Southern Movie Palace: Rise, Fall, and Resurrection. University of Florida Press, Gainesville.Google Scholar
  31. Lehman P., 2001: Masculinity: Bodies, Movie, Culture. Routledge, New York.Google Scholar
  32. Levy E., 1991: Small-Town American in Film. The Continuum Publishing Company, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Limerick P., 1987: Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  34. Limerick P., 1991: What on earth is the new western history? In: Limerick P., Milner C. and Rankin, C. (eds), Trails: Toward a New Western History, pp. 81–88. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence.Google Scholar
  35. Lukinbeal C. and Aitken S., 1998: Sex, violence and the weather: Male hysteria, scale and the fractal geographies of patriarchy. In: Pile S. and Nast H. (eds), Places Through the Body, pp. 356–380. Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  36. Massey D., 1993: Power geometry and a progressive sense of place. In: Bird J., Curtis B., Putnam T., Robertson G. and Tickner L. (eds), Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change, pp. 59–69. Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  37. McMurtry L., 1966: The Last Picture Show. Simon & Schuster, New York.Google Scholar
  38. McMurtry L., 1999: Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond. Simon & Schuster, New York.Google Scholar
  39. McMurtry L. and Bogdanovich P., 1970 (1994): The Last Picture Show. Screenplay. Script City, Hollywood, California.Google Scholar
  40. McReynolds D.J., 1998: Alive and well: Western myth in Western movies. Literature Film Quarterly 26: 46–52.Google Scholar
  41. Mitchell D., 1996: The Lie of the Land: Migrant workers and the California landscape. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  42. Phillips R., 1997: Mapping Men and Empire. Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  43. Robbins W., 1991: Laying siege to western history: The emergence of new paradigms. In: Limerick P., Milner C. and Rankin C. (eds), Trails: Toward a New Western History, pp. 182–214. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, Kansas.Google Scholar
  44. Rose G., 1994: Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  45. Royal Theater, Archer City, Texas, 2003: Personal correspondence and Scholar
  46. Slotkin R., 1992: Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of Frontier in Twentieth-Century America. Atheneum, New York.Google Scholar
  47. Sparke M., 1995: Writing on patriarchal missiles: The chauvinism of the Gulf War and the limits of critique. Environment and Planning A 26(7): 1061–1089.Google Scholar
  48. Warshow R., 1992: Movie chronicle: The Westerner. In: Mast G., Cohen M. and Braudy L. (eds), Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, pp. 453–466. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  49. White R., 1991: It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own: A History of the American West. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.Google Scholar
  50. White R. and Limerick P., 1994: The Frontier in American Culture: An Exhibition at the Newberry Library, August 26, 1994-January 7, 1995. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.Google Scholar
  51. Willson R., 1973: Which is the real Last Picture Show? Literature Film Quarterly 1(2): 167–169.Google Scholar
  52. Worster D., 1985: Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West. Pantheon, New York.Google Scholar
  53. Zonn L. and Winchell D., 2002: Smoke Signals: Locating Sherman Alexie's Narratives of American Indian Identity. In: Cresswell T. and Dixon, D. (eds), Engaging Film: Geographies of Mobility and Identity, pp. 140–158. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillU.S.A.
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations