Looping the loop of authenticity in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Westworld

Conference paper


Lovell, J. and Hitchmough, S. 2018. Looping the loop of authenticity in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Westworld.
AuthorsLovell, J. and Hitchmough, S.
TypeConference paper
Description

The concept of the ‘Wild West’ of America is a source of forms of constructed and staged authenticity (MacCannell, 1973; Wang, 1999). The Southwestern desert landscape is frequently associated with a narrative of frontier individualism, pioneering, adventure and the aggressive suppression of Native American peoples. When Turner (1893) stated that the frontier had closed, it was a source of anxiety and nostalgia as the connection to a rugged, nationally ‘existentially authentic’ (Wang, 1999) sense of freedom was lost, leading to re-enactments of frontier heritage.

The paper uses a content analysis approach, which enables the deconstruction of different Wild West representations, primarily drawing on both 1903 newspaper archive reports of William Cody’s tours in the UK and the visual storytelling of the television show, Westworld.

The research observes how frontier tropes have fed an ‘authenticity loop,’ which perpetuates and revives the mythology. The loop encompasses the staged authenticity of ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,’ the cowboy film genre and iconography of Monument Valley, visitor attractions such as Knotts Berry Farm and the Westworld television show’s hyperreal, futuristic, cyborg-hosted frontier theme park. Each reimagining in the loop adds a variation, reinforcing the legend and fuelling Western tourism. The research suggests that the ‘technological frontier’, which is depicted on Westworld, is a source of alienation, oppression and nostalgia for a simpler era, echoing the enduring, conflicted desire to revisit an authentically ‘Wild’ West.

Year2018
ConferenceAssociation of American Geographers Annual Conference
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Oct 2018
Completed11 Apr 2018
Accepted11 Apr 2018
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https://repository.canterbury.ac.uk/item/88x35/looping-the-loop-of-authenticity-in-buffalo-bill-s-wild-west-and-westworld

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