'You're-like-wind-blowing-over-the-land-and-passing-on': Strategies of national identity formation in the US-made Mexico Western

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  • Jörn Glasenapp
Since no cultural identity can exist alone without a well-defined image of its counterpart, few activities reveal as much about a culture as its construction and representation of that counterpart. As Helmbrecht Breinig and other critics persuasively argue, Mexico has always served as an important alternate pole through which the United States have constructed their own cultural identity. Using Roland Barthes' semiologically based myth critique presented in Mythologies, my analysis will show that the Western genre has participated in this process of identity formation by recurrent use of the 'American in Mexico' pattern. While John Ford (in Rio Grande) and John Sturges (in The Magnificent Seven) contrast Mexican incompetence and weakness to American competence, power and activism in order to vindicate the containment policy of the 1950s and 1960s on screen, Sam Peckinpah in his 'Vietnam-Western' The Wild Bunch launches a vigorous attack on American interventionism and brilliantly deconstructs the notion of the United Sates as the world's redeemer nation. With an even greater intensity, Cormac McCarthy achieves a similar result in his fifth novel Blood Meridian which I read, among other things, as a subversive writer's response to Sturges' movie.
Original languageEnglish
JournalZeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)331-349
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2001