Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Young Guns" (1988)

The opening of “Young Guns” clues you in right away that this is no traditional western. It is grainy and over exposed, but on purpose. Someone probably thought that it would look artsy and appeal to the MTV generation. In any case, this was the western for Generation X. Or, that was the idea anyway. They were counting on the most popular young stars to bring people into the “antiquated” genre. We get shots of each actor, looking at the camera as their credit is on screen. Is this a movie or a TV show?

I remember back in 1988 that this film seemed entertaining enough for a teenager just going to the movies. However, it did not turn me on to westerns. Today it is not hard to see why. This is a lazy attempt to create an American anti-hero. They take a moment from American history—the Lincoln County War—and turn it into a clear cut “good vs. evil” scenario. That way the Gen X teens would know for whom to root. (As Americans, we have at times been on the clear side of good in our confrontations, but we like to think of all of our wars that way.) Then, for good measure and once again to appeal to those Gen Xers, they make the main character a mindless rebel.

One can forgive the portrayal of Billy the Kid in this film. He was a violent outlaw and probably was a lot like he is shown in this story. We don’t really hold him up in any higher regard than the characters who ride with him. However, the white-washing of history going on here is a disturbing trait of national story-telling, no matter what nation doing the telling. And this film is regarded as the most historically accurate depiction of these events in cinema?

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