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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 2, 2020

Appropriating the Comanche: Hell or High Water and the New Southwest

  • Douglas E. Green EMAIL logo


Hell or High Water (2016) takes the elegiac mode – the wistful lament for the myth of the Old West – and recasts it as a raucous country song on the dismantling of that myth by twenty-first-century capitalism. In the wake of the Great Recession, director David Mackenzie and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan pair off two iconic sets of Western characters: a couple of down-and-out bank-robbing brothers shadowed by an old, White Texas Ranger and his American-Indian/Mexican-American deputy. The values of the lawmen and the outlaw brothers are not mutually exclusive – each pair shares more with the other than with the new materialistic order around them. The overarching metaphor for men who repeatedly confront the socioeconomic forces pitted against their values is the Comanche, to which several characters lay claim. Hell or High Water gives us both a lament for the myth of the Old West and a tart critique of the film Western and of the real-world exploitation of the region, its people, and the American dream they cling to.

Corresponding author: Prof. Douglas E. Green, Augsburg University, Minneapolis, English Department/CB #59, 2211 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA,

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Published Online: 2020-04-02
Published in Print: 2020-03-26

©2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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