Mel Brooks 'Blazing Saddles'

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Everyone knows one when they see it. Horses and swinging saloon doors. “Good guys” winning pistol duels against “bad guys.” Cacti or tumbleweed. Gambling, smoking, drinking, shooting. And dust. You can’t have a good classic Western film without the dust. Besides the setting and props, Westerns have set rules on how “frontier life” works. Indians are evil, bandits have no background story and the heroes silently get the job done, to name a few. It is the following of these laws, or lack thereof, which governs and categorizes Westerns as classic, revisionist or parodist. Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974) is one such Western that rebels against what is normal. But rather than stay in the realm of revisionist films, Blazing saddles takes one step…show more content…
The classic Western genre has many predetermined characters. There is the hero, the villains, the useless lawmen, the prostitutes/pure women and the Indians. These characters strengthen the iconography and unify the concept of a “traditional Western.” When audiences enter a theater to watch a classic Western, they already know what the characters will represent. Similar to Greek tragedy, the audience already knows the general plotline of the film.Rather than going for plot, audiences go to classic Westerns to strengthen the myth of the Western frontier. The most famous of the classic Western characters is the strong, individualistic, silent hero. His moral code allows him to take law into his own hands. He gets the job done and he gets it done right. He is usually white. Bart is the hero of Blazing Saddles. His character is a caricature of classic Western heroes because he is loud, outgoing and black. Bart is everything that classic heroes aren’t: he is hated by his town, he utilizes the help of a drunk and he represents the national law. Bart symbolizes the social responsibility that is usually counteracted by self-interest in “the classics.” Riding on the edge between revisionist and parodist at some points during the film, Blazing Saddles satires classic Westerns while also commenting on modern issues. First, the film mocks the frontier. The character Gabby Johnson is an old frontiersman. He has obviously been in the West his whole life. He represents what the West supposedly represents: freedom, honor and tradition. However, nobody can understand him, and his words are classified as “frontiersman gibberish.” Gabby Johnson represents the frontier life is portrayed as confusing and inaccurately depicted in most Westerns. Another character that mocks both culture and classic Westerns is the Indian chief, when Bart is retelling his past.

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