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2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 8:10 am UTC
by Grop
Image
Title text: “Sitting here idly trying to figure out how the population of the Old West in the late 1800s compares to the number of Red Dead Redemption 2 players.

I can't help but think of films about ww2.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 10:13 am UTC
by da Doctah
Grop wrote:Image
Title text: “Sitting here idly trying to figure out how the population of the Old West in the late 1800s compares to the number of Red Dead Redemption 2 players.

I can't help but think of films about ww2.


I can't help but think of M*A*S*H.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 12:57 pm UTC
by billybobfred
Is "Western" really a genre, though? FFN and Fictionpress list it as one, which I've always found odd -- it feels more like a setting than a genre to me.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 1:26 pm UTC
by solune
Couldn't you say the same thing for Antiquity ? I'd say it goes from -500 to +200, so about 700 years.

Sitting here idly trying to figure out how the population of the Old West in the late 1800s compares to the number of Red Dead Redemption 2 players

I'm pretty sure the second number is bigger.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 2:08 pm UTC
by wumpus
solune wrote:Couldn't you say the same thing for Antiquity ? I'd say it goes from -500 to +200, so about 700 years.

Sitting here idly trying to figure out how the population of the Old West in the late 1800s compares to the number of Red Dead Redemption 2 players

I'm pretty sure the second number is bigger.


I'm not sure just how much gets set then. I'd put "a bit before 2000BCE" as more significant. In a 200 year span you get both the Trojan War and presumably Moses and Exodus, although I'm not sure enough "fan fiction" has been written in the past 4000 years to compare with the 200:1 ratio, but it is pretty big.

I'd try to put as many of the famous Greek myths into that era, but I suspect that they predate it by a bit (although stuff like Theseus can't be more than a few centuries older).

Any major war gets it's share of literature. Randal Monroe has already pondered (I think in a "What If?") if the total amount of WWII films put back to back would equal the total time (at least from US declaration of war to Japan's surrender) of WWII.

The "medieval era" gets a bit compressed, especially when dealing with things like full armor and all the formal laws governing the vassal system. Don't expect to find even *any* historical period that has all the sword, armor, and lance technology (mostly armor) of a typical medieval story that doesn't have gunpowder. Gunpowder shows up a lot earlier than you'd expect if you grew up on those stories and a lot of the other tech didn't exist until cannons at least were common.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 2:40 pm UTC
by rhhardin
Thurber, explaining his love of French interpretations of Westerns

"It occured in a book in which, as I remember it, Billy the Kid, alias Billy the Boy, was the central figure. At any rate, two strangers had turned up in a small Western town and their actions had aroused the suspicions of a group of respectable citizens, who forthwith called on the sheriff to complain about the newcomers. The sheriff listened gravely for a while, got up and bucked on his gun belt, and said, "Alors, je vais demander ses cartes d'identité!" There are few things, in any literature, that have ever given me a greater thrill than coming across that line."

That was written in 1935.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 2:42 pm UTC
by ijuin
The Antebellum period is not part of the Wild West? The region was being heavily settled as early as 1840...

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 4:02 pm UTC
by cellocgw
ijuin wrote:The Antebellum period is not part of the Wild West? The region was being heavily settled as early as 1840...


I wondered too... but the Gold Rush, the Oklahoma Sooners, the Golden Spike all occurred after 1860. FWIW

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 4:08 pm UTC
by Quizatzhaderac
billybobfred wrote:Is "Western" really a genre, though? FFN and Fictionpress list it as one, which I've always found odd -- it feels more like a setting than a genre to me.
We'll one can think of the genre and setting separately, but the setting is a weird and distracting choice if you're not going for the themes of the genre.

You can have the themes without the setting, but features of the setting are rare in human history. Also, if you don't have the asthetics, it's hard to recognize the genre as you've basically changed everything superficial.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 4:18 pm UTC
by DavidSh
The California Gold Rush was 1849, wasn't it though?

Though I can see how movie-makers might want to avoid the complications of the issue of slavery in the western territories.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 4:44 pm UTC
by hetas
It doesn't really feel weird, to be honest with you.

And I think the two time periods in the comic should probably overlap.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 6:31 pm UTC
by DavidSh
hetas wrote:And I think the two time periods in the comic should probably overlap.

Which period(s) were you thinking of expanding?
Video games I presume all postdate 1950.
The first western film is often asserted to be "The Great Train Robbery", a ~12 minute silent film from 1903.
Western books may predate 1900, although I can't think of any examples.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 6:51 pm UTC
by dtilque
hetas wrote:And I think the two time periods in the comic should probably overlap.


They definitely overlap. The period in question should start no later than 1806 or so, when the mountain men era began, and quite possibly much earlier. And Western literature was written during that period. It's arguable that the Natty Bumppo books by James Fenimore Cooper were Westerns, even though they took place east of the Mississippi (in western New York, in fact). The first of those was published in 1823. Bret Harte's first story was published in 1863.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 6:57 pm UTC
by hetas
I would also count paintings in the "western genre".

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 7:19 pm UTC
by Zamfir
Karl May started writing in 1875, and wrote little after 1900. We can conclude that Randall only knows the later American copycats, and is unfamiliar with the German originals.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 11:31 pm UTC
by Encino Stan
da Doctah wrote:
Grop wrote:http://www.xkcd.com/2152/
Title text: “Sitting here idly trying to figure out how the population of the Old West in the late 1800s compares to the number of Red Dead Redemption 2 players.

I can't help but think of films about ww2.


I can't help but think of M*A*S*H.

M*A*S*H is the first thing I thought of. TV series lasted 3 times longer than Korean War.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 12:36 am UTC
by Reka
rhhardin wrote:"Alors, je vais demander ses cartes d'identité!" There are few things, in any literature, that have ever given me a greater thrill than coming across that line."

Can you explain this for those of us who are resolutely and irreparably non-conversant in French? I mean, I can get Mr. Google to cough up a translation, but that doesn't explain why Thurber considered it thrilling.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 1:47 am UTC
by rmsgrey
Reka wrote:
rhhardin wrote:"Alors, je vais demander ses cartes d'identité!" There are few things, in any literature, that have ever given me a greater thrill than coming across that line."

Can you explain this for those of us who are resolutely and irreparably non-conversant in French? I mean, I can get Mr. Google to cough up a translation, but that doesn't explain why Thurber considered it thrilling.


Roughly speaking it translates as "Okay, I'm going to check their ID!" - an entirely reasonable step in 19th Century France, where most people had official records, and asking for ID would cue undesirables to move on, but futile in the Old West where ID just meant a mutual acquaintance vouching for you...

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 3:42 am UTC
by serutan
DavidSh wrote:The California Gold Rush was 1849, wasn't it though?


Indeed it was. And by a strange coincidence California got statehood a year later.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 3:46 am UTC
by Pfhorrest
are not Westerns just a subgenre of historical fiction?

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 5:39 am UTC
by Zamfir
Pfhorrest wrote:are not Westerns just a subgenre of historical fiction?

Technically yes I suppose, but in a weird sense. When the genre started and established it's 'tropes', it was a contemporary setting. Buffalo Bill's Wild West show started touring in 1880, and at that time the Wild West was already a standard setting for pulp magazine stories.

Even the first western movies might not have been intended as historic fiction, AFAICT. The Wikipedia page of The Great Train Robbery says that the movie (in 1903) was partially inspired by a Butch Cassidy robbery in 1900.

There must have been a switchover where westerns became clearly historical, but it was gradual and the actual fiction itself didn't change much.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 7:14 am UTC
by gerrym
"three times longer" means four times as long. The 120 years is only three times as long as the 40 years, so not three times longer, just two times longer.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 11:03 am UTC
by hetas
Are James Bond and Jason Bourne films going to be Historical Fiction?

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 12:18 pm UTC
by gmalivuk
Pfhorrest wrote:are not Westerns just a subgenre of historical fiction?

I'd say Firefly is a (space) western but in no way is it historical anything.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 12:26 pm UTC
by cellocgw
Encino Stan wrote:
da Doctah wrote:
Grop wrote:http://www.xkcd.com/2152/
Title text: “Sitting here idly trying to figure out how the population of the Old West in the late 1800s compares to the number of Red Dead Redemption 2 players.

I can't help but think of films about ww2.


I can't help but think of M*A*S*H.

M*A*S*H is the first thing I thought of. TV series lasted 3 times longer than Korean War.

Depends how you count the length of the war. It's currently still active since there was a cease-fire agreement but no signoff as to and end of the State of War between the two factions.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 1:27 pm UTC
by Old Bruce
gmalivuk wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:are not Westerns just a subgenre of historical fiction?

I'd say Firefly is a (space) western but in no way is it historical anything.

As is Outland.1981 with Sean Connery set in a mining colony on one of Jupiter's moons.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 2:40 pm UTC
by wumpus
dtilque wrote:
hetas wrote:And I think the two time periods in the comic should probably overlap.


They definitely overlap. The period in question should start no later than 1806 or so, when the mountain men era began, and quite possibly much earlier. And Western literature was written during that period. It's arguable that the Natty Bumppo books by James Fenimore Cooper were Westerns, even though they took place east of the Mississippi (in western New York, in fact). The first of those was published in 1823. Bret Harte's first story was published in 1863.


The Mountain Man era simply doesn't fit the "Old West" genre. The infallible wiki [/s] puts cattle drives clearly existing in 1836, which certainly fit the Old West genre as it included cowboys doing extreme cowboy activities. Much like the "medieval genre" I mentioned above, "Western fiction" tends to assume plenty of things: cowboys, sixguns, sheriffs, US Marshals, gold prospectors and miners, and farmsteaders. Don't count on them completely overlapping in one era.

Another thing to remember is that one of the main points of the genre is how the Old West (and the frontier) disappeared. The movie ends with the hero (or at least the mysterious stranger) riding off into the sunset. Why? Because now that the "town is tamed", it is no longer part of the Old West, and the heroic deeds the character needs are now only found West of the newly tamed town. Thus he leaves toward the setting sun. This won't happen with the Mountain Man era, it will take a long time between then and when the settlers know peace (and those who don't know peace ride into the sunset).

PS. The 1985 movie "Tanpopo" fit nearly all the western requirements (including the gang leaving into the sunset once the deeds were done) and was essentially historical (especially now that 1980s Japan is history...), but shouldn't really be considered a "historical western".

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 4:08 pm UTC
by Quizatzhaderac
Pfhorrest wrote:are not Westerns just a subgenre of historical fiction?
I'd say a distinction needs to be made based on if a genre prioritizes verisimilitude or romanticism.

In reality:
  • Cowboy hats were not super popular yet
  • People didn't fight duels often
  • Native Americans were neither orcs nor na'vi
dtilque wrote:It's arguable that the Natty Bumppo books by James Fenimore Cooper were Westerns, even though they took place east of the Mississippi (in western New York, in fact).
I would argue the biome matters. Underneath the man vs man plots there is a prevailing man vs nature plot that shapes the way individuals live their lives and communities form.

Living on an eastern-US frontier also posed challenges, but those were different ones.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 4:25 pm UTC
by PM 2Ring
The British film Moon Zero Two from 1969 was shamelessly promoted as 'The first moon "western"'. I guess it was a bit cheesy, but I enjoyed it, although it wasn't very successful. I suspect it hasn't aged well...

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 4:43 pm UTC
by dtilque
wumpus wrote:
dtilque wrote: The period in question should start no later than 1806 or so, when the mountain men era began,


The Mountain Man era simply doesn't fit the "Old West" genre.


Maybe not technically, but the average person would likely say a movie about them was a Western.

For sci-fi westerns, The Far Frontier by William Rotsler was basically a Western. He even lampshades it at one point by having one character point out to another that where they're at (planet in another solar system) wasn't the Old West and those aliens they're fighting are not Indians.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 5:09 pm UTC
by Jorpho
PM 2Ring wrote:The British film Moon Zero Two from 1969 was shamelessly promoted as 'The first moon "western"'. I guess it was a bit cheesy, but I enjoyed it, although it wasn't very successful. I suspect it hasn't aged well...

Saw that at Bad Movie Night not so long ago; seems MST3K covered it at some point. It's not so bad, but the pacing is rather excruciating.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 5:57 pm UTC
by Reka
dtilque wrote:
wumpus wrote:The Mountain Man era simply doesn't fit the "Old West" genre.

Maybe not technically, but the average person would likely say a movie about them was a Western.

No, not really: I don't think anyone characterizes The Last of the Mohicans as a western.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 8:32 pm UTC
by wumpus
Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:are not Westerns just a subgenre of historical fiction?
I'd say a dilatation needs to be made based on if a genre prioritizes verisimilitude or romanticism.

In reality:
[list]
[*]People didn't fight duels often

I've seen the claim in a reasonably well researched book (probably "The Good old Days were Terrible") that the classic pulp/Hollywood "draw pardner" duel had only a single documented* occurrence. And while the source of the quote for "go West, young man" returned East complaining out "too much gunplay", the actual number of shootings was rather low (lower than some modern high crime areas in the US).

* not that the Old West was well documented. But of all the ways for men to shoot each other, it wasn't common.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 9:41 pm UTC
by GlassHouses
Reka wrote:
dtilque wrote:
wumpus wrote:The Mountain Man era simply doesn't fit the "Old West" genre.

Maybe not technically, but the average person would likely say a movie about them was a Western.

No, not really: I don't think anyone characterizes The Last of the Mohicans as a western.

"The West" used to start farther east than it does now. In the Wikipedia article about The Last of the Mohicans (the novel), it says

[Cooper] grew up in Cooperstown, New York, which his father had established on what was then a western frontier of settlement; it developed after the Revolutionary War.

Even today, this usage still survives to some extent. To anyone unfamiliar with U.S. terminology, what Americans call the Midwest should more properly be called the Middle.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 9:50 pm UTC
by Quizatzhaderac
You're switching definition of "western" inappropriately. Gaul was once the western frontier (of the roman empire), but nobody is saying that Asterix comic books are in the "Western" genre.

The frontier moved. When you change both the time and place, you change the setting to.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 9:57 pm UTC
by Pfhorrest
GlassHouses wrote:To anyone unfamiliar with U.S. terminology, what Americans call the Midwest should more properly be called the Middle.

Growing up in California, I would sometimes refer to places like Illinois as "the mid-east", confusing two terms I had heard adults using but I guess never properly understood by then.

Of course it gets even worse when "the west" is even further east than "the midwest", and "the east" is to the west.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 10:49 pm UTC
by Heimhenge
Well I grew up in the middle of the Midwest (Wisconsin). When we traveled west from there, we didn't really feel like we were in the "west" until the terrain and flora started changing ... somewhere in the Dakotas. But Wiki disagrees with that:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midwestern_United_States

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 11:04 pm UTC
by Reka
GlassHouses wrote:
Reka wrote:
dtilque wrote:Maybe not technically, but the average person would likely say a movie about them was a Western.

No, not really: I don't think anyone characterizes The Last of the Mohicans as a western.

"The West" used to start farther east than it does now.

Yes, precisely: The Last of the Mohicans takes place in what was then the western frontier area, it features a conflict between settlers and Native Americans, and the main character is the OG "mountain man", but nobody in their right mind would characterize the movie as a western. So clearly, dtilque's assertion that the Western genre includes the Mountain Man era is... well, maybe not completely disproved, but certainly suspect. (It's not completely disproved because LotM takes place a good century before most Mountain Man stories.)

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 11:07 pm UTC
by GlassHouses
Quizatzhaderac wrote:You're switching definition of "western" inappropriately. Gaul was once the western frontier (of the roman empire), but nobody is saying that Asterix comic books are in the "Western" genre.

The frontier moved. When you change both the time and place, you change the setting to.

What, proof by exaggeration? I'm not talking about ancient Europe. The Last of the Mohicans takes place on what was then the western frontier of the American colonies. Just because most "western" movies take place a bit further west, TLotM is not a Western? Now *that* sounds like arbitrary shifting of goalposts.

Re: 2152: "Westerns"

Posted: Wed May 22, 2019 1:17 am UTC
by ijuin
Pfhorrest wrote:
GlassHouses wrote:To anyone unfamiliar with U.S. terminology, what Americans call the Midwest should more properly be called the Middle.

Growing up in California, I would sometimes refer to places like Illinois as "the mid-east", confusing two terms I had heard adults using but I guess never properly understood by then.

Of course it gets even worse when "the west" is even further east than "the midwest", and "the east" is to the west.


True. In modern technical usage, we define the division between East and West at Greenwich Observatory, where we define our meridian of zero longitude. In contemporary culture, we define it as somewhere around the Iron Curtain boundary.