Europeans were still more attracted by Indians
Cowboy did become a frequent hero of tabloid novels and large-circulation newspapers in the 1870–80s, but, as Lonn Taylor convincingly showed, his image, although heroic, was not uniform. In the 1880s, he turns out to be more antisocial: “a rude, dangerous, recalcitrant and daring individualist,” in any case, when fate confronts him with a sedentary urban population. The new image was created by the middle class of Eastern America, where farming was very strong, and this image was very literary. This can be seen not only from a comparison of the cowboys with the medieval knights of Thomas Malory and the popularity of the one-on-one duel at exactly noon, like a knightly duel, but also from the European origin of some “western” topoi. The image of a noble and lonely shooter, who arrived from nowhere with a mysterious past behind his back, was already exploited by the Irish novelist Mayne Reed. The idea that “a man should do what should” has found its classic Victorian expression in the now poorly known Tennyson’s poem The Revenge, which tells of the struggle of Sir Richard Granville alone with the whole Spanish fleet.
In terms of literary origin, the fictional cowboy was a creature of late romanticism. But as for social content, he had a dual function: he embodied the ideal of personal freedom, driven into a hopeless trap by closing the frontier and the onslaught of large corporations. As stated in one review of Remington’s articles (illustrated by the author in 1895), the cowboy roved “where an American can still enjoy great freedom in a red shirt, but she was already pressed so close to the mountains that she was about to evaporate somewhere on the top. ” So, in retrospect, the Wild West could well look like the sentimental William S. Hart, the first star of westerns: the frontier of herders and gold prospectors “meant for the country … the very essence of the life of a nation … Only one generation has passed since the whole country was a frontier. Consequently, the spirit of the frontier is firmly interwoven with American citizenship. ” From a quantitative point of view, this statement is absurd, but it is symbolically significant. The constructed tradition of the Wild West is entirely symbolic, since it summarizes the experience of a relatively small group of marginals.
Who, after all, is now worried that the total number of people killed in all major pastoral cities – in Wichita, Abilene, Dodge City, Ellsworth, combined – between 1870 and 1885 was 45 people, an average of 1.5 per shopping Season, or that in local newspapers, not at all stories about shootings in bars, but real estate prices and all sorts of deals?
But the cowboy also embodied a more dangerous ideal: he symbolized the protection of the lifestyle of the white natives of America (WASP) against immigrants of lower races, who invaded millions of its territory. Hence the tacit exclusion of any Mexican, Indian and African elements that are often found in the original non-ideological westerns – for example, in the Buffalo Bill show. That is how a cowboy turned into a lanky, tall Aryan. In other words, this constructed cowboy tradition joins the stream of segregation and anti-immigrant racism, and this is a dangerous legacy. The Aryan cowboy, of course, is not a fully mythical figure. Probably, the percentage of Mexicans, Indians and Africans did decrease as the Wild West ceased to be essentially South-West or even a Texas phenomenon at all, and reached its peak at Montana, Wyoming and both Dakotas. In later cattle boom periods, a fair amount of European guys, mostly English, joined the cowboys, followed by graduates from Eastern colleges in America. “It is safe to say that nine-tenths employed in commerce in the far West are gentlemen.” Incidentally, one of the aspects of the pastoral economy, which is not very compatible with the design of the cowboy myth, is that a significant amount of British investment was poured into the western pastoral ranches. The Europeans at first did not see much charm in the Aryan cowboys, despite the incredible popularity of westerns. Many of these films were actually made in Europe.
Europeans were still more attracted by Indians than just cowboys, and here you can recall the German movie version of The Last of the Mohicans, shot before 1914, where, surprisingly, Bela Lugosi played the main role of an Indian.