Essay on Settler Innocence in Stagecoach movie and media

Submitted By bibip
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Settler Innocence in Stagecoach movie and media The mythology of settler innocence was necessary for white settlers to justify their conquest of the West, which inevitably involved displacing Native American civilizations. Settler innocence is often framed through the lens of race and gender in order to serve two purposes. First, settler innocence through the lens of race constructs a dualistic perspective of race in which whites are viewed as innocents and Native Americans are viewed as savages. Second, settler innocence through the lens of gender maximizes sympathy for settlers’ victims as females are predated upon by Natives. Both lenses support the mythology of settler victimization, facilitate the white conquest of the West, and justify settler violence against Native Americans. Settler colonialism requires the elimination of natives as a way in which innocent settlers can colonize and take control over the land because settlers can use the land better than natives could (Wolfe 389). The primary motive for this logic of elimination is not race but access to territory (Wolfe 388) which settlers can improve the land and set up in place a new society moving progress to the West. This view of Western landscape was portrayed by Catlin’s paintings recreating an empty space to be conquered with fading Indians on it (John 174). Thus, Western media portrayed settler colonialism in a sense of victimhood which innocent settlers were forced to exile Europe and came to America. Then, they were required to conquer the wilderness land in order to survive (Limerick 19).
In Stagecoach race is represented as a degradation of native women and racism against not white cultures like Mexicans or Natives. Gender is differentiated: men’s role is active protecting white women. Ringo Kid is showed as the ideal American being independent, honorable and standing by his word. Women are portrayed as helpless and needed of care like Mrs. Mallory who is on charge of reproduce white bodies to populate the land. Interestingly, settler innocence is presented in a contradictory manner in the 1939 film, Stagecoach. Certainly, racial and gendered lenses present white settlers as victims of Natives savagery, thus justifying conquest and violence against them. However, the white characters in the film are hardly idealized as innocent victims. Rather, they are presented as anti-heroes who take refuge in the West because of its lawless condition. Dallas is a prostitute who flees after being outcast by a Western town. The doctor is a drunk. Ringo Kid is a fugitive embarked on a crusade of vengeance. The banker is an embezzler. Hatfield is a gambler. None of these characters fit an idealized version of settler innocence, though they do become antagonists of Natives. The moral ambiguity of the white settlers in Stagecoach challenges the simplistic and theoretical notions of settler innocence. For example, Patricia Nelson Limerick claims that settler innocence meant that “the