A Country for Old Men A second glance at the retiring cowboys of the Old West reveals an ageless struggle
Caine Bird •
bout halfway through the Coen Brothers’ curious neo-western No Country for Old Men (2007), Tommy Lee Jones’s drowsy, plump sheriff Ed Tom Bell exchanges a few words with his fellow deputy. Nearby, the burning carcass of a car calls the immediate attention of both men; the blistered dirt shifts under their boots as they wearily attempt to establish a narrative for the crime scene. After a pause, Bell despairingly expels, “Well, age will flatten a man”. Spoken in a harsh, grovelling register, Bell’s words come to capture the growing frustrations of aging men in the western genre and culture at large. The film mobilises a portrait of manhood that departs from the traditional narratives of youthful men on screen.
14 Diegesis: CUT TO [conflict]
Writing for The New York Times in 2014, critic AO Scott bemoaned “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture”, arguing that patriarchs are become a dwindling vestige of a bygone generation of men and mature adulthood is seemingly disappearing in western culture. According to his argument, few beloved television characters occupy the last remaining rights of patriarchs. Mad Men’s (2007-) Don Draper (Jon Hamm), for example, enjoys the privileges of the past at the envy of the present. Draper typifies the traditional hegemonic male, who teeters between moral bankruptcy and nonchalant coolness in his slick, grey flannelled suit. Notably, as manhood is situated in a new cultural milieu, there is a developing dialogue between social expectation, age
Diegesis CUT TO [conflict] issue 9 2015. New voices in screen criticism.