ENGL 359

I expected to see what I considered my knowledge of the Western genre when issues like these came up in the past. But, it caused me physical pain to accept a white racist man as our protagonist, living in a world where Donald Trump may be President. The obvious case of an American Native villain is Dan Stevens, who looks like a white man with blue eyes (redface and spray tan). For instance, the film The Searchers had a lot of political issues. I was supposed to have the same effect in 1956 as it did in 2016, but I also think it’s a little difficult to watch. However,

The weather is really shitty today. Output: The weather is really terrible today.

The Searchers, through its portrayal of Martin’s feminine presentation and Ethan’s heroic relationships, effectively fills a void in Ethan’s life with a female companion, making it one of the most dynamic relationships between Jeffrey Hunter’s character and John Wayne’s character.

For those who don’t know, Queer Theory is a theoretical framework that examines the social construction of gender and sexual orientation, specifically focusing on desires and sexual acts that deviate from the societal heteronormative standards. It explores the inherent ambiguity of queerness and how it can be used to point out queerness in specific literary texts or within a particular text. In general, Queer Theory can be used to theorize about queerness or construct a queer “reading” of a film or literature, especially in the context of criticism.

When engaging in a romantic heterosexual relationship, Martin challenges the definition of Western masculinity and takes on a feminine role. Even in their marriage, Martin is pressured to fulfill the passive feminine role, limited in taking initiative. By settling down and accepting the demands and terms set by his fiancée, Miles, Martin demonstrates his adherence to heteronormative standards. In the film, it is evident that Martin takes on a feminine role, even in his relationship with Ethan. This contrasts with the hypermasculine figure of Martin, who stands out as a contrast to the lawless strong men determined to tame the Wild West, which is the focus of the Western genre.

The Searchers, © 1956, Warner Bros.

If a female character wants to have an active life, her only options are to eventually die or get married. In Mulvey’s essay, she argues that marriage is portrayed as the completion of the Oedipal trajectory, fulfilling the Oedipal needs of women and symbolizing the triumph of civilization in most Western films. This is why marriage is often seen as the concluding act in these films, as Freud shows in his favorite essay borrowed by everyone’s beloved Mulvey. To give a brief summary for those film scholars who aren’t hardcore cinema enthusiasts, Martin’s character arc concludes with the resolution of the Oedipal trajectory in “Afterthoughts on Cinema Narrative and Visual Pleasure” by Laura Mulvey.

The trajectory of Martin’s actions perfectly matches this pattern. Ethan is forced to choose between his doubts about masculine capacity and marriage and adventure. Even though Ethan ultimately kills Chief villain Scar Marty, it is Martin who must be domesticated at the end of the film, rather than being portrayed as the manly hero. The final shot of the film depicts Ethan wandering towards the desert after Martin enters through Laurie’s doorway. Although the resolution grants active roles to the female characters, it is implied that domesticity is still the winning shot for Martin in the end, only through marriage.

Even though it could be said that Ethan and Martin’s emotional relationship mirrors that of a heterosexual couple, it is important to note that there is no sexual or romantic relationship of any kind between Marty and Ethan. However, Martin’s queer reading of Ethan’s role in his life can further push the analysis.

Despite the fact that they are both men, Martin acts as a compass for emotional expression, portraying the masculine and feminine emotions distinctly in these characters. This is best exemplified by Ethan, who struggles with his ethical dilemma over his involvement with Debbie’s niece, while also dealing with the emotional turmoil. The most critical manifestation of this queerness is Martin’s ability to provide a balance of emotional sensitivity around Ethan’s rough worldview.

In line with societal expectations of gender roles, the scene ultimately concludes with Martin making an emotional plea to Ethan, urging him to exhibit more compassion and empathy. It is worth noting that Martin consistently chooses Ethan over his fiancée Laurie whenever presented with the choice, which is particularly significant as it challenges traditional notions of power dynamics within marriage and aligns with a queer interpretation. The conversation then shifts to Ethan’s testament, resembling the role of a caring nurse, as the scene opens with Martin discussing Ethan’s injuries. A scene deserving of careful analysis is the one where Ethan discloses his intention to name Martin as his inheritor.

The Searchers is concerned with creating a picture of masculinity, and it is important to understand why Ethan and Gay are at the center of it. The film aims to show the viewer that Ethan’s rough masculinity, which matches the traditional idea of heroism, cannot be easily categorized into rigid gender binaries. Instead, Martin’s softer alternative masculinity demonstrates that gender roles are not clearly defined.

Works Cited.

The source for this information is a webpage titled “Gender Studies and Queer Theory (1970’s-Present)” on the Purdue OWL website. It was written by J Case Tompkins, Libby Chernouski, Allen Brizee, and Elizabeth Boyle and was published on April 21, 2010. The website belongs to Purdue University.