Table of contents

Cowboys & Aliens

Shoot first

The preacher looks the saloon-keeper in the eye & offers him friendly advice: get yourself a gun; learn how to use it. That’s the Old West, put briefly. Then he teaches him. He tells him God wants him to mind his business. People are practical here, not even talk of demons lasts long. Maybe fighting evil should have been it, though, because Harrison Ford tells us manliness requires killing people who get in your way & putting people out of their misery. Love of one’s own makes one as harsh as the wilderness.

Cowboys & aliens do not make sense together, though cowboys made sense on their own terms. Two different coherent readings of the story are required for the title to make sense, functioning independently of one another. People kill & get killed so often in this story that it tends toward tragedy; & to look at the science of the aliens, the source of their power, it would explain the new science. I cannot tell you why this requires two different interpretations; nor how they would go together.

Cowboys, as seen in Westerns, must be paradigmatic of men for the story to make sense. Hence the tragic inclination; in battle, Harrison Ford leads a cavalry charge. Then it emerges criminals & Indians also share in the battle. Lawlessness & war put these together. Our outlaw protagonist steals alien weaponry & follows his inclination to war. The woman, typically treacherous, turns out to be an alien. Apparently, the look & the being of the human being are quite different. She looked beautiful & therefore persuaded; her purpose is self-sacrifice for the good of mankind. It seems that men’s inability to understand the truth about her being goes with their need of her.

The aliens apparently want gold & experiment on human beings. They carbonize humans; & they also make them stare into a mesmerizing light that steals their minds, which helps Ford’s bully of a son turn into a decent fellow. The aliens appear fearless, nomadic, & very powerful. Their ugliness warns about their cruelty & arrogance. They are both barbarians & civilized, like tyrants abroad. There is a great difference between their powers & the weakness of their being. Let us look at the way these different beings die. The men die fighting, knowing that suicidal risks are the only chance for victory. Action is vindicated here, because surprise is the only inevitability in war. The aliens die unprepared, killed because they did not know their own weakness. Powerful, they are nevertheless unprotected: they must have thought themselves immortal. Lack of self-knowledge in the aliens is caused by their lacking a country. They are nomadic & think themselves free from nature.

For fans of Harrison Ford & Daniel Craig & manly war