Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
Wild Myself is the search for the true definition of a cowboy. I created a cowboy as the protagonist in my film and stripped him of the masculinity and desire that are often the main traits for cowboys portrayed in Hollywood. I believe that by taking away the materialistic qualities of the cowboy I could get to the true essence of what it means to be a cowboy. In most westerns the cowboys are males that exhibit traditional macho behavior and are usually motivated to act heroically by money or women as a reward. My cowboy is weak and goes into the desert with his odd inhaler device looking for life that he can breathe in. Through analysis of the western film structure I created a story that follows a cowboy archetype into the desert as he meets other western film archetypes: The Damsel, The Villain, and The Sheriff. The story is composed of the traditional heroes journey structure that is the base of nearly all Western films, except that in Wild Myself the cowboy does not do what he is expected to do: He doesn’t want the girl as his reward, he doesn’t fight the villain, he gets tricked by the sheriff, and he prefers to paint his nails in solitude than go out drinking.
As a female filmmaker it’s difficult to enjoy all westerns because they tend to be coated in misogyny and racism. However, I can’t resist but to be attracted to the western genre. I find that my attraction is rooted in the adrenaline rush and bravery depicted by the cowboys and not by the aggressive behavior they exhibit towards themselves, women, or Native Americans. I truly feel that a cowboy is purely someone who has a ruthless energy and courage while inhabiting a landscape like the Wild West. By reclaiming the word cowboy I have been able to find my place as a female in the western. I chose western archetypes without names or personal identities as my characters in order to symbolize the predictably of the roles they play in every western. I made my cowboy someone who is blind to superficial things like gender and possessions. In this way the female character can become liberated and doesn’t need to depend on a male to save her. By letting go of her dependency on the cowboy, the damsel finds the sovereignty needed to save herself. Later on she takes on the role of the cowboy there by liberating him from his duty to be a savior.
I wanted to further investigate the identity of the cowboy by seeking out and meeting real people who live in what’s left of the Wild West today. I filmed mostly in Joshua Tree and Slab City, two places that house many artists and recluses. Slab City is the closest thing left to the Wild West. It is not a town; there is no police force, there are no taxes to pay, no running water, nothing. The residents of these desert locations have lots of land to do what they please with; these are the modern day cowboys. Hollywood has failed to recognize the day-to-day lives of the average desert dweller in their films. Most people’s understanding of the cowboy comes from film, so I decided to show what the real people who live in the Wild West are like. The documentary footage doesn’t focus on any individual or reveal too much about the people. More so, the documentary serves as the setting for the narrative. I chose to shoot the documentary with a hand held camcorder in order to apply a look of realness and further more create a contrast between it and the cleaner, sturdier, digital footage of the narrative. This distinction between cameras parallels the concept of the cowboy in the movies and the cowboy in real life. These worlds collide at the end when the cowboy protagonist enters into the reality of the Wild West. The ending follows him in this strange desert location as he finds himself among others that do not judge him. He is free to be himself while still maintaining the essential traits of the cowboy. Here he is no longer weak. His search for life comes to an end as the weight he felt of his cowboy responsibilities disappears.
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Ucedo, Nicole, "Wild Myself" (2016). Senior Projects Spring 2016. 395.