Last night, for what seems like the billionth time but just may be fourth, Yancey tried to get me into Deadwood, HBO’s very own Manifest Destiny drama. Typically, if he tells me I’m going to dig a show, I do, if grudgingly. The Wire is the classic example — and thank our lucky stars that it’s been renewed for the fourth season, praise be.
But although I admire the painstaking research that goes into Deadwood, as well as its seamless integration of real-life historical figures with fabricated characters, I just haven’t cottoned to this one. Its sepia tones, dirty red faces, potty-potty mouths, (and this coming from a girl who’s had her mouth metaphorically washed out with soap many a time); the claustrophobia of such a tiny town squirming, teeming with avarice and swaggering men in big boots and big hats with big guns and big capitalistic aspirations. It just ain’t my thing.
I’ve never liked Westerns. Ever. Even the ones I know officially are admirable, like McCabe & Mrs. Miller or Eastwood’s revisionist Unforgiven. I used to think it was just because the dusty, browbeaten aesthetic, all squinted eyes and thin lips squirting tobacco juice, didn’t appeal to me, and because the world of Westerns is very much a world stripped of femininity even when it isn’t stripped of physical women.
It’s more than that, though. Visiting the world of the Western not only entails visiting the lair of the lion, but visiting what is no matter what a rationalization, even an aggrandizement of the individualistic, acquisitive strain of American culture that now dominates our landscape. The behavior of white pioneers in the West not only embodies the strain of American history that most shames me, but on a dramatic level, it just doesn’t make for compelling drama.
The Man in action is dull. It’s dull to identify with what is ostensibly the oppressor rather than the Native Americans or even land that he conquered. What interests me in every story is subversion. Underdogs. Underworlds. Greys. Out there, in the too-bright sunlight, squirming for gold, squeezing holsters, fucking broads, guzzling whiskey — there’s no subconscious. Hell, it’s all superconscious. Or, worse: id.
Deadwood may provides ample insight into the current mindframe dominating American culture, but I don’t need to squander my leisure time on the revelation that we’re all just a bunch of grasping cowboys. Pardner, I’ve got CNN for that.