What do you picture when you think of the Wild West?
The Wild West is no longer a location or late 19th century time period. It has grown into a dramatized and romanticized era recognized around the globe. I set out to see how the world pictures the Old West, talking to people from South Africa to Lithuania and everywhere in between. Here are some of my observations.
“Desert”- Janis from Latvia
People described a landscape of unforgiving terrain full of mountains, red rocks, and desert. Raquel pictures “very sunny, hot and dry small towns” differing greatly from the rainforests around her city in Brazil. Markas, in relatively flat Lithuania, pictured “mountains that are covered in sand.”
I thought it was fascinating how so many people mentioned the dry, desert scenes of the Wild West. Continuing to look at the answers, I noticed how the comments mostly focused on the interaction between the land of “lawlessness (and) no hygiene” as Marc from Switzerland described it and the rugged characters trying to survive there
“Cowboys” – Huan from China
Kipras, who is somewhat of a Lithuanian frontiersman himself, pictured “a cowboy riding in a small canyon or dried out riverbed, reddish rocks around.”
Cowboys have captivated imaginations around the world. With only their wits, strength, and revolver aiding in their survival, it is easy to see how they have become the main character in the story of the Wild West. They are instantly recognizable with their regalia of “guns, horses and cowboy hats” as Aleksandar from Serbia noted. Because of their role in Western films, cowboys have become the symbol of the Wild West for millions around the world. Performances by John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and others have shaped the perceived image and character of cowboys.
“Old spaghetti western cowboy films” – Fay from England
Cinema has had the greatest influence on people’s views of the Wild West. There are hundreds of Western films that have traveled all around the world. For Darrin from Singapore the title image of the 1999 movie Wild Wild West was the first thing that came to his mind. Video games like Red Dead Redemption have allowed Nikola from Ukraine to experience his own Wild West adventure while living on the other side of the world. These films and games have created the scene that people imagine of “dinkum old saloon with cowboys walking through the town!“ as Kyle from South Africa shared.
Even for someone who has spent substantial time in the western United States, Nofoaiga Apua from Samoa shared, “The first thing that comes to mind are cowboys and gunslingers. I’ve seen too many Wild West shows to think of anything other than adventure and danger.”
The Wild West that is depicted in film may not be historically accurate, but it has been critical in introducing audiences around the world to the era. Without Western movies, far fewer Estonians, Tongans, and other citizens of the world would be familiar with the American Frontier.
“The American Frontier” – Ansari from India
The legend of the West has traveled farther than any cowboy ever could. Visiting homes on every inhabited continent, lassoing fans from every pocket of the Earth. The true Wild West lived for only a short time, but the legend of the Frontier will continue to survive.