Posts tagged ‘joseph campbell’

October 13, 2008


by cowboylands

…the strange Thunder Riders gallop across the desert. Their tracks lead back to the mysterious mountains–where no one has ever come out alive…

 Plastic Hero in Red ©2008 es

by guest blogger batboy42

The rules of life are different for a hero, no matter how hard he tries to remain with the old neighborhood. 

He’s walking like a hero along the wooden sidewalk of his little town, and then tense and dark villain music begins to play. Next thing he knows, he’s in the middle of a barroom brawl. The ground rules of his life are about to change.

When you look for myth, you search for yourself. Totems or role models, larger than life or just an ordinary joe, heroes aren’t always easy to discern from their appearance. Of course, in novels the hero is ineffably charismatic and male, and on the silver screen he usually sings, too. Of course, he also shoots well and looks great on a horse.

How to save the day, wearing high-heeled cowboy boots and spurs?

(Hey, if Tex Ritter can do it…)

The cowboy movie is the American ritual re-enactment of the hero quest.

All follow the hero quest formula:

  • Conflict with routine life
  • Journey to an unknown place where the hero dies and is reborn in some sense
  • Return to the people, who won’t listen anyway.

In the Mascot series’ Phantom Empire, twelve episodes of the worst Western ever made, the greed is personified by outsiders–non-ranch people. As the conflict takes shape, the Junior Thunder Riders describe their spiritual vision of the Valkyrie-like Thunder Riders to the radio audience, and the archetype roles get handed out. The conflict is either the takeover of Radio Ranch by greedy uranium prospectors or the death by design of the kids’ father. Gene Autry is framed by the murderer. If he misses singing on one single daily broadcast, he will lose the contract…and Radio Ranch!

The Hero, resplendent in singin’ cowboy clothes, reveals a lot of Trickster characteristics in order to get his singin’ spot every day, but the real clowns are two of the ranchhands and band members. They do the slapstick and farce, leaving the Hero with his dignity as well as the starring role.

The Queen of the underworld gestures imperiously and snaps out commands to her underlings. (What does she want with Gee Nautry anyway? And that magic mirror thing…pure Romper Room! I see Gene…and Betsy…and Frankie…)

The underworld, objectified as the Scientific City of Murania, started life as some kids’ hamster Habitrail, with about as much realism as the yellow cheese on a cheap pizza. (Hey, that reminds me, punch the button on the microwave, willya?)

Cowboy movies illustrate the eternal cowboy. People can see the role model right in front of them–the archetypical Hero. The snorting, lunging horse and his skilled rider riding through a land of strange rock cliffs and ferocious vegetation. The birth of a legend.    

(Pass the popcorn, please.)

Blindness is a common characteristic in the first part of the hero’s journey, and it is referred to twice in the first six episodes of this awful Western series. Gene Autry substitutes himself for a villainous underling while the actual underling staggers around the desert. The underling is presumably left in his long johns, because Gene borrows the airman’s bulky coverall to aid his disguise. The underling, who is the uranium prospector’s pilot, is blinded by tear gas when the two ranch hand clowns dose all three of them with tear gas canisters. In another vision-related incident, an underworld subject, a Muranian man, is blinded.

Blindness symbolizes being born. The first part of the Hero’s journey is Birth.

*And only in terrifically bad westerns is something so profound portrayed in such beguiling ways. Stay tuned for Part Two: The Hero’s Quest–Bucko

October 11, 2008

All My Heroes Might Be Cowboys

by cowboylands

plastic hero copyright es 2008

Plastic Hero © 2008 es

Anything can look heroic–it’s all in the way the lights and camera work. Maybe that’s why cowboys in movies don’t say too much. All candidates on Campaign Trail ’08 have to keep talking, but the more they talk, the less heroic they seem. It’s a problem, buckaroos and buckarettes. I think they know it, but their words (except for any hate-mongering-type words) bring them to the status of mere mortals. So I hope the candidates are investing in good lights and camera. And a shiny white horse. 

What actually makes a hero? Tune in over the next week as guest blogger Batboy42 describes the hero’s journey. The hero, that is, of the worst western ever made. Call it a mash-up between Joseph Campbell and Gene Autry. Call it a story of Everyman. Call it what it is: brilliance. 

With eyes that hide the man within
You see behind the eyes of other men
You’ve lived and died and come to life again
And now you stand alone at the crossroads of your mind
You’ve left your yesterdays behind..
But which road leads you to tomorrow?



You’ve turned your back on yesterday
Betrayed a man who swore he’d make you pay
For when you left you took his pride away
You know he’ll never let you break away so easily
You’ll have to fight, before you’re free
But how much more time can you borrow?


Now in a single moment your past grows dim
One thought goes racing across your mind
You ride to meet the woman you stole from him
Oh no!…Charro don’t go!…
Charro don’t go!!…


There’s something hanging, in the wind
Your past is catching up and closing in
You’ve been halfway to hell and back again
And now you laugh in the devil’s face
with your last breath…
You’ll run a race with life and death…
But will you live to see tomorrow?

Charro…To prep you for the birth of the hero were the words from Elvis western Charro (for a full review and a multitude of factoids, check out Aussie fansite For Elvis Fans Only). He sang the title song, but otherwise he just moved his lips to mutter his lines, and to give a sexy pout. Those eyes, those eyes. Remember the mystery eyes? Those were pure Elvis smolder.  

View CHARRO. Enjoy.