When I was a student in the sixties, over here in the Netherlands, we used to squander much precious time watching westerns. We learned a lot about the American myth of how the west was won. We naively had played ‘cowboy and injun’ when we were children, brandishing selfmade guns and lassoing each other (especially lovely girls). Roy Rogers was one of our hero’s. But now, learning to analyse real life in college, we started to understand the grim story behind the story. The good were and wore always white. They self-righteously conquered the men in black. We were lured into accepting the death penalty as general solution of the struggle between good and bad. Most US westerns (and thrillers, and whodunnits and police dramas) ended with killing=shooting the culprit, and he deserved it, didn’t he? Another solution, used against the stereotyped bad Indians and Mexicans, was sending in the cavalry. Same frame: we are good, they are evil. Same solution: kill ‘em all.
America always was a brutal, lonely wilderness, captured by cigarsmoking white male capitalists, bible in hand, at the cost of the First Nations and anyone standing in the way. In that wilderness the gun was the law and the law was the gun. That is the message of the old westerns: we are good, the bad can be wiped out at will.