by Rodney Wallis
This podcast is of a seminar presented by Dr Rodney Wallis at UNSW Sydney for SSSN on 3rd October 2018. Rodney’s paper is followed by a question and answer session facilitated by Ben Eldridge and involving the audience present on the day.
Following the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre in December 2012 that claimed the lives of 28 people, including 20 young children, CEO of the National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre famously declared, “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” In the years since Sandy Hook the NRA and its Republican clients have reliably spewed forth similar rhetoric as a way of combating calls for increased gun control, usually in the wake of yet another mass shooting. While this can rightly be seen as a cynical appeal to the anxieties of a terrified populous (terrified, it must be said, of both violent criminals and government regulation of firearms), it nonetheless speaks to the peculiar resonance of the idea of an armed savior in American culture. In this paper I will explore the ways in which Hollywood has contributed to this ideal through a close examination of the classic, self-consciously mythic western Shane (George Stevens, 1953). Through my examination of Shane I will demonstrate how Westerns throughout this period bound together the image of the gun with notions of heroism, individualism, masculinity, justice, and democratic process, in turn making significant contributions to the promotion and circulation of gun culture throughout the United States.