Welcome…my name is Chad Beharriell and thanks for coming to WESTERNSREBOOT.
Why Westerns? I can’t answer that question for others but can share some of the path that has taken me here.
I grew up in the small rural village of Iron Bridge, Ontario (population 700) along the north shore of Lake Huron in the region of northern Ontario….Iron Bridge is located about an hour east of the Michigan state border at Sault Ste. Marie. My backyard was pine-covered rocky hills, a major river flowing into a Great Lake and local “traffic” that included moose, deer and the occasional black bear – I consider myself fortunate to have had all that growing up and to be able to return to that when I can.
Wanderings both personal and academic led to professional work with rural Internet initiatives, non-profit development with rural communities, the teaching of North American history at the university level and advocacy in support of Indigenous justice issues and protection of the environment. The land is all we’ve got and all we need.
Growing up in North America means that the Western film genre has always been in the background both culturally and also personally within my own family – the Western comic books of my father, the fact that he grew up with horses, Marty Robbins gunfighter ballads on my grandmother’s records and Western movies in our family collections….they lingered whether I realized it or not.
By the time I was 30 and completing a Master of Arts in Humanities, I found myself turning more and more to the Western genre to explore ideas that were important to me personally….rural community, landscape, relations between Indigenous peoples and those who came after. Now some ten years on, I believe that there is nothing in North America that cannot be explored in the Western film genre….the importance of the land, race and gender, technology, the growth of industry and centralized government, immigration and the collective history of those who live in North America now. The Western is a (North) American art form specific to this continent and provides a framework for understanding both the history and contemporary culture of North America. Westerns have been a way for the settler society (of which I am a part and include all non-Indigenous peoples within) to tell their story and I believe it is important to de-construct that telling.
This blog – which launched in the Fall of 2011 – will explore the ideas of Westerns both past and emerging. Posts are made on at least a weekly basis and often more frequently. The Western – as does the rural lifestyle – still offers an opportunity for reflection upon issues such as interaction with the natural world, self-determination and relations between those of different backgrounds. The construct of the Western – specifically that of natural landscape and geographical place – cannot be duplicated within an urban crime drama or science fiction epic. To quote a line from the song “Californication” (by the Red Hot Chili Peppers), “Space may be the final frontier but it’s made in a Hollywood basement“…..good Westerns are not….they are outside your door on the land itself.
In addition to this blog, I work as a freelance writer and teach two separate Western film courses. One is online for Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and the other is both an in-class and online course offered by St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario, where I live on the Michigan border. Both classes are offered each academic term – the current Spring/Summer term is ongoing and the upcoming session will be the Fall 2013 term. I have copied links below for those that are interested. My email is also provided below for those that wish to correspond directly with me.
Finally, this blog welcomes all….no matter your own location or background – your reflections on the Western are valid because you speak from your own specific interpretation of the genre.
Thanks for your time in reading this and I hope that you ride this way often!
Chad Beharriell, MA
WESTERN FILM COURSES OF INSTRUCTION
SPRING 2013 TERM Information at this post/link: Spring Term 2013 – Westerns Film Course
Online / Sault College version – Westerns @ Sault College
In-class / St. Clair College version – Westerns @ St. Clair College