Jubal Early's Revenge

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Covering similar ground, a reader writes:


This was something that came up the other day--but sort of got lost because of the OBL stuff, but I was watching "The Outlaw, Josey Wales" which is a sort of typical Clint Eastwood western--with one major caveat--he is a member of the confederate army. 

He joins the confederate army because the Union raped his wife and burned his son alive (as seems to be the case with everyone in his unit--there is not a single African American in the entire run time of the movie). 

However, I realized in the course of watching this...wait...I've seen this before. Soon after, I started to realize there is practically a whole sub-genre of westerns about confederates: 

Jonah Hex (the wife raped/son burned alive scene is virtually identical to Josey Wales) 
True Grit 
Lonesome Dove 
The Long Riders 
The upcoming HBO miniseries
Even the (awesome) video game, Red Dead Redemption, has a main character who fits this mold. 

 There are others as well--they are just escaping my mind at the moment. It's not like (in all cases) being part of the confederacy is an essential part of the story--which in some ways, makes it even weirder... The one negative portrayal of the Confederacy? Wild Wild West. Am I missing something key here? Why the hell does someone keep making this movie?

We know why right? It really would be cool if the Union was just an empire of corporate overlords looking to turn the free states into the Borg, and the Confederates a band of plucky outlaws who just wanted to live free. Instead the Borg were right and the plucky outlaws were slave-catchers and man-hunters.

And so I've been reduced to the riding for overly-long, vanity-project Wyatt Earp. (I actually just think Kevin Costner is awesome.) The Earps were Union men. A woman who lives in this house, but shall remain nameless, recently saw this scene and said, "Oh Michael Madsen, you can make anything look cool."

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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