At long last, AMC has roped me into watching their Sunday night lineup. Zombies and cowboys, oh yes! I’ve loved westerns since I was a little girl. Movies like The Magnificent Seven and The Good, The Bad & the Ugly sucked me right in and still do to this day. Hands down, my absolute favourite is Tombstone. It is an epic drama with big name actors all trying to outdo each other and scintillating action. Heck there are award winners in the background. Recognise the guy who played Johnny Tyler in the famous slap scene? Two words: Bad Santa.
As I was watching Hell on Wheels, I pondered about our fascination with the American cowboy and why it endures. The simple answer is sex. Cowboys are sexy. They’re often dirty but always sexy. They symbolise machismo: strong or aggressive masculine pride. It’s a primal attraction for some women (like me). We like our men smart, tough, a little rough and capable. In westerns, characters lacking those qualities don’t last very long. They would either man up, move out or get killed. All countries with a cattle culture have cowboys but until more movies get made about them, the gold standard is the American.
Most actors have played a cowboy at some point or another. Come to think of it, most of those regarded as enduring sex symbols have all played cowboys at some point. Russell Crowe, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Kiefer Sutherland and Josh Brolin have all strapped on a six-shooter. Some actors like Clint Eastwood have titanium-clad cowboy credentials. Whether they’re wearing black hats, regardless of ethnicity, in modern or period pieces – there’s just something about the American cowboy. He might have the soul of a poet or the blackest night. He may wear his heart on his sleeve or have none at all. Like moths to a flame (or zombies to chickens), we just can’t get enough and probably never will.