The film A Fistful of Dollars by Sergio Leone can be analysed to be film that supports a patriarchal society that many argue still exists today. Clint Eastwood’s character is depicted as a mysterious macho man. Women are portrayed traditionally in a very narrow light, either as a mother or widow. These tropes reflect an ideal or mentality audience members wish to hold during the 1960’s.
The support for patriarchal ideals begins with the portrayal of Clint Eastwood and the archetypal mysterious macho man. This image of a man was held high in society and valued, more likely than any representation of a woman at the time. Eastwood is introduced at the beginning of the film, as an observer of the Mexican village, taking in the world around him and potentially plotting a complex plan to manipulate the village. Eastwood maintains a grimace the entire movie. Although this can be considered a “manly” image, this is also physically impossible for one would have to rest his or her face at some point. Maintaining this demeanour for the entire film emphasises his “invincibility” or “tough guy appearance” and diminishes any sign of weakness. Although in the film there is s point of vulnerability Eastwood’s character experiences. In the interrogation scene at the Rojo’s manor, Eastwood is tortured until left immobile and the audience is exposed to his weakest point in the film. Eastwood still prevails and in the process ends up killing more Rojos, both of which are highly unrealistic for an ordinary man to do. His vulnerability is quickly overpowered by his capability to escape the situation and this the archetype of the “macho man” is emphasised and glorified.
Other men portrayed in the film such as the individuals of the Rojo and Baxter clan are also portrayed as the glorified “macho man”. These two families are the only ones with power in the town and settle any dispute with violence. The association of violence with men develops the ideology of how issues need to be solved with guns and that there is always a power struggle that must be resolved between men. The portrayal of the male characters in A Fistful of Dollars as nothing but manly men, with an exception of the coffin-maker, shows the values of society at the time.
The portrayal of women in the film tends to be very traditional. There are numerous examples that show the underrepresentation of women in A Fistful of Dollars. The gender roles, as mentioned before, are implemented in the very beginning of the film, with all of the women indoors either closing the blinds or shutting the doors. This emphasises women’s roles within the house and how they are nothing more than housewives or widows. For example, the saloon owner, Silvanito, remarks that there is “no women, just widows” in the town. This statement is a very bold one, indicating how women are generally nothing without their husbands. There is talk of how there is no work in the village yet there are not any women working when they are clearly capable since they are able bodied. Yet the village values the men to accomplish all of the work therefore the female presence is diminished.
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