Looping the loop of authenticity in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Westworld.

Lovell, J. and Hitchmough, S. (2018) Looping the loop of authenticity in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Westworld. In: Association of American Geographers Annual Conference, April 10-14 2018, New Orleans. (Unpublished)

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The concept of the ‘Wild West’ of America is a source of forms of constructed and staged authenticity (MacCannell, 1973; Wang, 1999). The Southwestern desert landscape is frequently associated with a narrative of frontier individualism, pioneering, adventure and the aggressive suppression of Native American peoples. When Turner (1893) stated that the frontier had closed, it was a source of anxiety and nostalgia as the connection to a rugged, nationally ‘existentially authentic’ (Wang, 1999) sense of freedom was lost, leading to re-enactments of frontier heritage.

The paper uses a content analysis approach, which enables the deconstruction of different Wild West representations, primarily drawing on both 1903 newspaper archive reports of William Cody’s tours in the UK and the visual storytelling of the television show, Westworld. The research observes how frontier tropes have fed an ‘authenticity loop,’ which perpetuates and revives the mythology. The loop encompasses the staged authenticity of ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,’ the cowboy film genre and iconography of Monument Valley, visitor attractions such as Knotts Berry Farm and the Westworld television show’s hyperreal, futuristic, cyborg-hosted frontier theme park. Each reimagining in the loop adds a variation, reinforcing the legend and fuelling Western tourism. The research suggests that the ‘technological frontier’, which is depicted on Westworld, is a source of alienation, oppression and nostalgia for a simpler era, echoing the enduring, conflicted desire to experience an authentically ‘Wild’ West.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General) > G0149 Travel. Voyages and travels (General) > G0155 Tourism
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Human and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Jane Lovell
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2017 15:00
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2017 15:00
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/16601

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00