Greetings! Periodically, I write posts about the various punk genres. We're being flooded with punk genres in literature, movies, video games, and especially the Internet. Naturally, some of these genres are more reputable and well developed than others. You might have seen the word Cattlepunk floating around the worldwide web and I want to talk about it. Should we take Cattlepunk seriously or is it just a random word that's using the punk idiom? I'll explain below.
Essentially, Cattlepunk is an alternate version of the American Wild West with a big emphasis on science fiction or fantasy elements. It's a pretty sketchy genre, but I suppose a few examples would include HBO's Westworld, Jonah Hex, Cowboys and Aliens, and Stephen King's The Dark Tower. Technically, the Westworld television series is probably the best example because it actually has a lot of punk elements. The series focuses on an adult theme park called Westworld that gives visitors unlimited entertainment and control over human-like robots in a Wild West setting. It's basically a futuristic version of LARPing. Visitors can literally do anything with these robots, ranging from killing them, sleeping with them, and more. Gradually, the robots form an uprising and turn against their human masters. The show is a commentary on cruelty, humanization, loss of identity, marginalization, and other themes.
Jonah Hex is a comic book series and film adaptation that takes place in the American Wild West with supernatural elements. The titular character is a Confederate soldier who was murdered along with his family. A Native American shaman used mystical powers to resurrect Jonah, although his face remained heavily disfigured. Ultimately, the former soldier becomes an antihero and hunted down his family's murderers. John Hex doesn't appear to have supernatural powers, but he seems to have a strong connection with death.
Cowboys and Aliens is another comic book series and movie. The comics and film don't share the same characters, but the basic idea is the same. Aliens ambush a small town in the American Wild West and begin abducting people. The townspeople have to save their city and possibly the entire world from an alien invasion. It's a wacky adventure with a ton of sci-fi elements, including shootouts between cattlemen and alien spaceships.
The Dark Tower is an epic dark fantasy and western by Stephen King. The 2017 film of the same name is loosely based on the book series. A gunslinger from another dimension named Roland Deschain is the protagonist. He's the last remaining member of a knightly order who is searching for the mystical Dark Tower. Along the way, Roland recruits helpers from Earth and other dimensions. They pursue a demonic entity known as the Crimson King and hope to save multiple worlds from his minions. The series has magic, monsters, interdimensional travel, and more.
Do I think Cattlepunk holds up very well? Not at all. I wouldn't say it's a separate genre from dark fantasies, steampunk, or other genres that use Wild West settings. Slapping the word punk on numerous labels seems to be a huge fad. Cattlepunk seems to be missing the punk spirit and other stylistic elements that are important for major genres. Some properties are just sci-fi tales set in the Wild West and that's perfectly fine. Plus, steampunk incorporates the Wild West frequently as well.
Luckily, many punk genres fit very well in pop culture and I'll discuss more of them during the year. Leave a comment if you have anything to say about this post. On a separate note, congratulations to the Rams for punching their ticket to the Super Bowl! I'm looking forward to Super Bowl Sunday. Take care and I'll see you guys next week.
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