Friday, February 15, 2008
Wands, Westrens and the good ol' days
In an earlier post, I discussed how I have a fascination for both fairy tales and tales of the Wild West. On my book shelf, you'll see stories about cowboys taking back towns from evil sheriffs and dozens of books about horses shoved next to The Little Princess and The Frog Prince Continued. An illustration of Sleeping Beauty hangs on my wall next to my pink cowboy hat I wore as a child and my spurs.
I never said I wasn't strange.
However, it's actually not really that strange. During Christmas, Ben and I were visiting his grandfather. He was playing El Dorado on the television, having developed a fevered need to have every John Wayne ever made. After ten minutes, Ben and I were hooked. Not only is John Wayne fascinating to watch, but the Western was funny. It was charming, it was clever and it was articulate. There weren't any bad actors stuttering through lines, raunchy love scenes or crass jokes that made you want to rip your ears off your heads. As I puttered through my routine at the gym, it suddenly came to me.
Fairy tales and Westerns are basically the same thing: a story about a hero struggling to right the wrong in the world and establish peace and happiness. There is always a fair maiden (bar maid, lady, etc.) that either needs to be rescued or aids the hero; a side kick and an evil villain that must be destroyed (greedy businessman, evil queen, etc.) That's why I like two seemingly "different" genres. Literary types are probably smacking their foreheads and screaming "DUH!" at their computer screens, but hear me out.
I know that there is a pattern to stories. Intro, developing conflict, more conflict, climax, falling action. I've got it. However, as the number of people buying books dwindles and movies become about harsh comedy or depressing dramas where everyone dies, maybe there's a reason people aren't interested in stories. Fairy tales and Westerns both show class. It's why I like country music. Same concept. In older movies, not just Westerns, they don't need foul language and skimpily dressed actresses to get their point across. Take It's a Wonderful Life. Cynics go on about it's cheesiness, how it's over rated, how it's a medafore for communism or something. But take a closer look. A hero struggles to right the wrongs in Bedford Falls and defeat the evil Mr. Potter, even when everything goes against him. At the end, joy and love make even the hardest hearted viewer at least tear up.
Maybe the reason I have an obsession with stories of the Wild West and fairy tales is because they offer hope. They offer the belief that love can win all, that hope springs eternal and the cowboy will ride into the sunset at the end. My friend Mrs. McGill told me when she was my age; movies were made to make you smile. Sure, they had their dramas and controversial pieces. But during World War 2, people didn't want to see a movie where families argued and someone died. They wanted to see a love story like The Shop Around the Corner. They wanted to have faith in hope, and they did it with class.
I may never make as much money as Nora Roberts and I may never be as popular as Stephen King. But the stories I tell, they will be classy. They will be charming. They will be witty and articulate. The prince will get his princess; the crooked sheriff will be thrown in jail. The deputy will get his girl and the spell will be broken. There will be hope, happiness and love. And while popular opinion may sneer, I have a sneaking suspicion more than a few of you would be delighted to read a story like that. If you do, let me know. Otherwise I'll have to tell my stories to the inhabitants of the Land of the Flowered Bed.