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Black Sheriffs and Villains in White Hats: The Image of the Hero in Western Parodies


Radford University


Just as ancient Greek tragedies were invariably followed by comedies, the serious Western has also been parodied and subjected to comic reworking. By undermining traditional stereotypes, parodies introduce and develop radical concepts. Because a parody is often not taken seriously, it can get away with dealing with topics that traditional stories find too daring or radical. Western parodies such as Blazing Saddles (1974) and Rustlers’ Rhapsody (1985) allow filmmakers to explore complex and controversial ideas such as race and masculinity that define the Western hero. By calling into question the traditional Western hero, parody Westerns allow for a discussion of the role of the Western hero, providing a way forward for the hero, one that is more complex and that does not fall neatly into the traditional stereotypes of race and Western masculinity. This ultimately creates a new model for the hero. The old hero is taken apart and a new one is constructed from the pieces, one that, while fundamentally different, still rides off into the sunset

Keywords: Western, parody, hero, blaxsploitation, Blazing Saddles, Rustlers’ Rhapsody, masculinity, shootout



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