Get It On; or, Western Fetishes, from Michael Jackson to Appaloosa

Get it on! Another da bomb of a Wild Western Web find! Michael Jackson as cowboy, circa 1977. *swoon*

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Even through the anemic strains of a stoopit disco arrangement, you can discern the moves that made MJ great. Taking on the butch character of a cowboy/gunslinger, Michael Jackson’s dancing transforms classic western movie clichés into fetish objects. Check out: (and try to ignore the video poster’s comments)

  • the saloon entrance
  • the insta-love “he look/she look” of the gunslinger hero/saloon girl
  • The drink-up at the bar
  • the epic showdown

(and all this with disco line dancing!)

as well as–in brilliant MJ mash-up style

  • the cowboy/gunslinger stance (legs apart, arms bowed at sides)
  • the ride on a bucking bronco
  • thumbs hooked into belt, legs apart

somehow making the cowboy/gunslinger both masculine and feminine and kinda transgender sexy.

The silver-screen western is no tall, dark stranger to fetishization. It was a long, slow process. Compare the following:

Stagecoach‘s (1939) scenes and accoutrements show a classical restraint; the final showdown is held off-screen and unlike later six-gun fetish money shots, John Wayne’s Ringo Kid displays an unusual weapon, a modified shotgun–rather dull but of course Wayne can carry it off.

I can't get enough of this shot.

Compare that with Sergio Leone’s epic close-ups of the showdown in [insert any of his movies here]. Eye. Hand. Holster. Sweat. Fingers. Trigger. Repeat. The oil-slicked barrels and polished gun butts scream sex. I mean, am I right or am I right?

Recent American westerns have backed off the stylized approach in favor of a more earthy and realistic appeal, such as 2008’s Appaloosa, starring eye candies Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris. But the fetishes continue: The guns are period replicas and, in some cases, actual weapons from the time, and looked after and stroked by a gun master on set.


May it never end! In the meantime, next trip to L.A., I’m checking out the fabulous costume MJ wore in the video at the Gene Autry Center‘s “The Way the West Was Worn…by Michael Jackson.” View it and weep.

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