By Bob Morshidi
I’m going to start this article with a disclaimer that essentially negates any sliver of credibility I might have as a writer: I typically hate cowboy movies.
There are exceptions of course. Anything western that Tarantino makes is a seller to me. Sergio Leone’s “The Dollars Trilogy”, with its masterpiece, “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”, is a yearly cinematic pilgrimage I go through. “The Magnificent Seven” is a homage to Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” and I’d gladly watch that movie any day.
What sets these cowboy movies apart from the drudge of standard western fares is the anti-hero feels it stokes. Westerns have been in decline recently, with it finding more popularity in Video Games rather than movies with Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption” series being a prime example. Next to a couple of blockbusters that will pop up every few years or so, I don’t think Westerns are ever coming back. I think that the soul of the western is now in fantasy movies, with the big hits of the last 12 months being the prime example: The Mandalorian & The Witcher.
There will be spoilers for the first season of both shows.
Say what you want about Disney’s handling of the Star Wars franchise (and I’ll say what I want. I LIKE the sequel trilogy), they certainly made the right move with the Mandalorian.
First, they took the race of a famous character from the original movie, created the lore inside a fictional universe brimming with lore and ran with it. They then gave it to the director of the first Iron Man movie (Jon Favreau is seriously underrated as a director), created a character from a race under persecution who were nearly extinct*, added in a cute version of a beloved character from the original series (everybody wants a Baby Yoda), and they have Disney+’s first-ever hit show!
*Yes, I know fellow nerds. Technically, the main character of The Mandalorian series, Din Djarin (played by the sublime Pedro Pascal), more famously referred to as Mando, is not a Mandalorian. Stop nitpicking.
The Cowboy-ness of it all
You have the lone ranger, Mando, so secretive that no one is allowed to see his face (except for a robot in one episode, but a robot isn’t a living being. Get it?). He’s happy to live his life by the credits and The Way of the Mandalorian. He’s your ultimate badass that everybody’s scared of and respects. He’s quick. He’s deadly. He’s space Clint Eastwood (Favreau actually based Mando off Eastwood’s character in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly).
And then, just like Eastwood’s character from the aforementioned movie trying to end a battle between Confederate and Union soldiers so everybody can go home, Mando finds a reason for fighting he believes in, and he changes a lot on the way he lives his life. This reason is “The Child”, also known as Baby Yoda to us in the real world.
He becomes a father figure. Hold on to this thought.
There are a few kinds of fans to The Witcher. Those who are fans of the books, written originally in Polish by Andrzej Sapkowski, or fans of the video games adapted from the books, created and published by the ever-excellent CD Project Red, or fans of the Netflix show that debuted in late 2019, or a combination of the three. However, unlike Game of Thrones which had a lot of disagreement about it, there is NO wrong way to fall in love with The Witcher.
In the fictional world that The Witcher is set in, the lands and seas are full of monsters and evilness. Witcher’s are a group of warriors who are trained and genetically modified to fight monsters. However, the people of the world generally have ugly hearts, from years of wars between kingdoms and trying to survive monster attacks, and that leads them to be super racist. They’re racist towards elves, dwarves, halflings and Witchers, even though Witchers save them from getting murdered by monsters a majority of the time. Because of the genetic modifications, Witchers seem emotionless (even though they’re not), and the humans of this world don’t like that. If you were to play the games, you’d know the feeling of being a person of colour walking into the Republican party.
The Cowboy-ness of it all
Even though there are a few Witchers, there’s only one “The Witcher”. The focus of the books, movies and games. Geralt of Rivia. Geralt roams the land, looking for jobs to kill monsters that earn him coin for a drink, food and maybe some female company. Sometimes he’s joined by the bard, Dandelion (or Jaskier in the TV show), who both entertains him and annoys him with ridiculous music.
He has an on-again, off-again relationship with the sorceress Yennifer of Vengerberg whenever they, BUMP, into each other. He doesn’t have a house, feared by many but loved by a lot of people that know that he does what’s right, and roams the world to save the world, one monster at a time.
And then he meets Princess Cirilla of the recently destroyed Cintra, who has unexplained magical powers of her own and is being hunted by soldiers from the Nilfgaardian Empire (If you know the full story of Nilgaard and Cintra you know then that the reason she’s being hunted by Nilfgaard is all kinds of messed up). Due to some archaic law, she becomes Geralt’s ward, and eventually, they see each other as father and daughter, while Yennefer treats Ciri like a daughter (Don’t get me started on the relationship of the three to Triss Merigold).
His care and love for Ciri lead to Geralt finding his humanity back. Even though he’s genetically modified and seems emotionless, he does care for people, and with Ciri and Yennefer (and sometimes Triss. Again, don’t get me started), he starts being human. Because of family.
Why am I blathering about the cowboy finding “The Child”?
Because in this time of uncertainty, “The Cowboy” symbolizes what we yearn for.
When cowboy movies were the vogue in the middle of the last decade, it was a time of the Wars. World War II had ended but still fresh in everyone’s mind, The Cold War could have turned out into a real war. Vietnam and Korea gripped the world in fear. The world was more selfish but yearned to be free, like the cowboy.
Now, in the second decade of the second century, people are closer together and care for each other. They want to be free but want their families to be safe too. Geralt and Mando fight evil to save their children. In 2020, we’re fighting evil while hoping our loved ones are staying safe. Like our fantasy cowboys.
In a way, we’re all cowboys. – New Malaysia Herald