Title

Gun-Slingin’ Tarts and Sensitive Cowboys: Johnny Guitar and the Rare, Female Western

Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Artist Statement

Johnny Guitar (1954) is a rare, female Western, based on the story of a small, corrupt Arizona community and a new property owner, Vienna (Joan Crawford). The town is dominated by the two main female characters of Vienna and Emma (Mercedes McCambridge); they call every shot, make every decision, and have men who follow them. The gender performances of both women are examples of coded lesbianism, which is adopted in the film to show their power and success in a man’’s world. Their masculine appearances and cold glances at men create on-screen innuendos, referring to their butch identities. The main male characters are, in turn, feminized, creating very sensitive and emotional cowboys, who dance, sing, and abide by their women. Not fully adopting homosexual characteristics, the resolution for the ““queered”” female characters lies in their ability to simultaneously be heterosexual damsels-in-distress, waiting for an opportunity to be turned back into women by the men who love them. Thus, even though the main characters’’ queer characteristics subvert the status quo in the traditional Western, heteronormativity is restored at the film’’s conclusion.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 211 A/B

Start Date

2-5-2009 9:00 AM

End Date

2-5-2009 12:30 PM

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May 2nd, 9:00 AM May 2nd, 12:30 PM

Gun-Slingin’ Tarts and Sensitive Cowboys: Johnny Guitar and the Rare, Female Western

DeRosa University Center, Room 211 A/B

Johnny Guitar (1954) is a rare, female Western, based on the story of a small, corrupt Arizona community and a new property owner, Vienna (Joan Crawford). The town is dominated by the two main female characters of Vienna and Emma (Mercedes McCambridge); they call every shot, make every decision, and have men who follow them. The gender performances of both women are examples of coded lesbianism, which is adopted in the film to show their power and success in a man’’s world. Their masculine appearances and cold glances at men create on-screen innuendos, referring to their butch identities. The main male characters are, in turn, feminized, creating very sensitive and emotional cowboys, who dance, sing, and abide by their women. Not fully adopting homosexual characteristics, the resolution for the ““queered”” female characters lies in their ability to simultaneously be heterosexual damsels-in-distress, waiting for an opportunity to be turned back into women by the men who love them. Thus, even though the main characters’’ queer characteristics subvert the status quo in the traditional Western, heteronormativity is restored at the film’’s conclusion.