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The Sonoran Landscapes of Hombre and Westerns as Topographical Events

Authors: Christopher Lukinbeal*, University of Arizona
Topics: Cultural Geography, Communication, Landscape
Keywords: Westerns, Cinema, Topography, Representation, Native Americans
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Western film genre is a topographical event involving the prehension of landscape. Etymologically, topos references the description and representation of place. Westerns provide a topographical survey through events that are in touch with, and move through the landscapes they inform. Westerns, however, present myopic social topographies: seen/scenes from the white male gaze, a lone topographer that leads a journey through space and negotiates events along the way. Cinema is the embodiment of the topographer’s gaze that shapes the landscape through its representation of events. Through the novel and the film, Hombre (1961/1967) informs the stereotypes of Sonoran desert Westerns; a mix of image facts and fictions stretched across time and space. Hombre is a montage of myths and histories from the late 1800s stagecoach era, to the 1960s and the publication of the novel and production of the movie at Old Tucson Studios, to its ongoing reception by audiences. Hombre is a revisionist Western that questions the style and tradition of the genre. When released, Hombre was thought to present a positive view of Native Americans. However, as time passes, its racialized geography exposes deeply problematic tendencies of representations of the ‘other’ by Hollywood and naturalizes inequalities and power relations. Hombre, through Jack Russell (Paul Newman), is a lone topographer who guides the narrative through a series of events, saves a group of Stagecoach passengers from death in the harsh Sonoran desert, only to be killed by a fluke in the topography of a climatic event.

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