Friday, August 26, 2011

Ritual in Cowboys & Aliens

The importance of ritual can not be overstated in this movie, since we get again and again that there is a proper way for nearly everything, and that in most cases, those who abide by the rules of the world get what they need or want.
Again, the minister plays a clear role in establishing these rules, outlining at various points for each of the main characters how they might reach their personal salvation.
Each character faces choices between going the right way or the wrong way, and generally, each must come back to the proper path in order to get what they need most.
Then, when the minister dies, and is buried, the characters are left to follow this or not.
When the military man urges the doctor and Jake to hurry, he says, "The only man who knew the right words to say is buried in the ground, isn't it enough that we took time to put him there."
Both Jake and the doctor say it is not, and concoct their own ritual to send the man on to the next world.
Getting to the next world is key.
It is through Indian ritual that Jake recovers his memory in order to bring the others to where the alien death camp is.
The military man’s son’s violation of basic rules is what leads him down the road to his own abduction. While some were willing to tolerate his spoiled acts, the sheriff is required to act when the boy goes too far.
And thus we get the ritual of sending him off to be tried.
But underlying all of this is the code of the west that says that each man must learn to fend for himself.
The military man when a boy was required to perform an act of mercy killing, part of his own becoming a man. The boy who is the grandson of the sheriff must go through a similar rite of passage to become a man.
This much the military man says to him when he hands him the knife, “Be a man.”
While one of the other characters says, “That’s hard,” another character says the military man means well.
But in the scope of things, this is how it must be done.

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