Frontier Ambitions and Cowboy Narratives
Chapter 2 traces the deployment of the frontier myth by Teddy Roosevelt to reinvigorate American masculinity and to borrow the frontiersman’s wilderness skills to imagine expanded borders and a global design for the nation. With the dawn of the film industry, the frontiersman is transformed into the screen cowboy and the western elevates the gunfighter to a violent but effective tool of conquest. The classical Hollywood western, The Searchers, is explored along with more contemporary “revisionist” westerns such as Dances with Wolves and The Hateful Eight—the latter portraying the frontier as intensely violent, even dystopic. The chapter concludes with the rise of the crime film with darker stories about lawless urban landscapes and the pliable morality of frustrated G-men and noir detectives.