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Placing man in the New West: Masculinities of "The Last Picture Show"

Grayson Holmes, Leo Zonn and Altha J. Cravey
GeoJournal
Vol. 59, No. 4, Cinematic Geographies (2004), pp. 277-288
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41147852
Page Count: 12
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Placing man in the New West: Masculinities of "The Last Picture Show"
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Abstract

The Last Picture Show does not fall within the genre of the Western, yet the cinematic narrative mourns the loss of the iconic Westerner - a man - and the passing of his home places that constitute the Old West. This paper is concerned with the ways in which this man and his places are transformed along with the embryonic but inexorable emergence of the New West -and its attendant demand for recognition of hitherto unheard voices (e.g., women, Latinos) - that accompanied significant social, cultural and political shifts that were beginning to emerge within the country as a whole in the represented early 1950s. His represented sites of contestation are found within the frame of the small west Texas town of Anarene, created by Larry McMurtry's novel of the same name as the film, both of which reflect contexts of the era in which they were constructed - the mid 1960s to early 1970s. We suggest that the film shows a great sensitivity to the ways in which particular masculinities are constituted in specific places, to the tensions that arise from the changing nature and definitions of masculinity as they are linked to these places, and with his sense of nostalgia and loss that accompanies his inevitable decline. But there is no clear and empowered place for women in these new places, only a recontextualized form of a patriarchal order which is not relational and which still maintains essentialist assumptions of gender. The Old West has taken new shape, much to the chagrin of man, but it is hardly a New West, with its emerging and representative voices.

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