Wanted Dead or Alive presents the first and foremost extensive view at how the American West has been depicted in popular culture. Subsequent to the Richard Aquila's introduction, which examines the birth and development of the pop culture West in the context of American history, noted experts explore developments in popular Western fiction, major forms of live Western entertainment, trends in Western movies and television shows, images of the West in popular music, and visual images of the West in popular art and advertising.
Millions who have never been there through advertising, entertainment, and other media know the American West across the America. The book describes the Wild West since the late 1800s, where the artifacts of popular culture have manufactured and maintained a myth of the American West in which chronicled realities have become convolutedly intertwined with legend. These objects stretch out from dime novels, film, and television to food packaging, and coloring books. Popular culture allows an escape to a time and places where new beginnings were conceivable, where legends and heroes were made, and where there was always adventure to be found.
He most important beginning was the Buffalo Bill and the Wild West Show. Giving an account of the Buffalo Bill, the book writes about him in detail, and shows how the west became popular among the masses. Born in a log cabin in 1846, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody worked for a wagon train at age twelve, and became a Pony Express rider by age fifteen, entrapped for beaver, prospected for gold, and scouted for the army during the Indian Wars. His adroit shooting while hunting buffalo for the Kansas Pacific Railroad earned him the sobriquet "Buffalo Bill" after he claimed to have killed more than 4,000 bison in less than 18 months. Cody began his acting career in 1872 when he starred alongside Texas Jack in The Scouts of the Prairie, a traveling play drafted and produced by novelist Ned Buntline. The play sensationalized the lives of real-life scouts Texas Jack and Buffalo Bill, who took a break from hunting and guiding to act as themselves in the production.
The fruition of The Scouts of the Prairie incited Cody to develop his own Wild West show, which became the most successful traveling entertainment the world has ever seen. To redo from memory the drama of life on the frontier, Cody recruited real cowboys, Mexican vaqueros, and Indians, including the legendary Sitting Bull, who had as a matter of fact fought against white enemies. The Wild West Show's Indian war dances, stagecoach chases, and buffalo hunts were carefully thought about as living history lessons. After touring Europe, Buffalo Bill and his manager Nate Salsbury formed a new, exalted Wild West Show known as the Congress of the Rough Riders of the World. The new show presented at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 to huge success. Situated at the entry to the fairgrounds, the Wild West Show attracted many of the 27,500,000 people that went to the fair. Few saw only the Wild West Show and then left, more than satisfied. The enlarged Wild West Show and Congress of the Rough Riders featured a more international cast, including US Cavalry, British Lancers, German Uhlans, Russian Cossacks, Japanese Samurai, 100 Sioux Indians, and Western cowboys and cowgirls.
Novels of Western adventures, popular in the late 1800s, incited an interest in the West that reached far and wide the region's borders and was a seemingly a force in the conception of the Western as a genre. The low-priced, popular fiction allured to young, working-class audiences and was bejeweled in mammoth serial editions at newsstands and dry goods stores in the eastern United States. As conventional adventure stories of Wild West, the novels combined both fact and fiction in adventures that needed to be glib and exhilarating to an increasingly literate public.
The book gives a detailed account of how the west was captured in the film and television. As with the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, that created a lasting tradition of the West whose influence extended to film, radio, television, and beyond. Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery (1903) is carefully thought about by many to be the first true Western film, notwithstanding the fact that it was filmed in bucolic New Jersey. The ten-minute drama featured molestation, posse pursuit, and shootout, elements typical of the Western that were pioneered by Bill Cody in his Wild West Show. Porter's film inscribed the beginning of an epoch in American filmmaking. For the next sixty years, 1/3 of all films produced in the United States were Westerns, and between 1960 and 1975, nearly 600 Westerns were produced in Europe.
John Ford raised the genre from inexpensively made Saturday matinee "B" films to a sober adult genre with incomparable refinement, richer Western paragons and themes, in-depth and complex characterizations, and larger profitability and acceptance. The notable relic film Stagecoach (1939), that included Ford's favorite setting of the grand Monument Valley of the Southwest was named for seven Academy awards. While Ford's epic films invocated to a grown-up audience, radio and television created Westerns for a youthful audience with such characters as Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers.
The peak of TV Westerns that occurred in the late 1950s through the 1960s, when up to 24 Western serials was televised each week. Even cartoon characters borrowed on the Western enigma, including Roadrunner, Wile E. Coyote and Yosemite Sam. The Western celebrations as a archetypal morality play in which conflicts are resolved in clear, violent action between ranchers and farmers, Indians and settlers, and outlaws and civilization. Dominated by the cowboy, the Western taught the contrast betwixt right and wrong, the good guys versus the bad guys, the white hats opposite to the black hats.
While one of the repetitive characters in the story of the West, stereotypical images of American Indians in popular culture define and oversimplify the Indian to a majority of Americans. Cigar store Indians, food packages, toy mattocks, gleaming braves on baseball caps and football helmets blur the cultural identities of individuals and the 400 different native cultures in the world. The representation of the feathered gladiator has found its way onto a medley of things including the nickel and stamps for the common people, and, for those who could afford it, convolutedly crafted silver spoons by Tiffany & Company.
Commercial products from bread and tobacco to baking powder and coloring books dilapidated on the fashionableness of the West and the representation of the Indian in order to allure to customers. The utilization of names and images of indigenous peoples for advertising and team mascots has caused a number of upholding groups to raise cognizance and bring lawsuits against parties that they feel are exploiting Indian culture. Where, over the last thirty years, more than six hundred colleges, universities, and high schools have altered or dislodged their use of Native American mascots.
Thus the book not only gives a detailed account of the West in popular culture and the way it gained momentum, but also how it is still depicted in the lives of most of the American popular culture through entertainment channels, television, films and other media, and the commodities promotion.