Chapter Three The Cowboy Way
Hans Gruber: “You know my name, but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne, Rambo, Marshall Dillon?” John McClane: “I was always kind of partial to Roy Rogers, actually.”
Hans Gruber: “Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?” John McClane: “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!”
From Die Hard (1988)
Of all the Western heroes, the most dominant one today is the cowboy (Smith rev.
ed. 1978, 109). The cowboy is evocative of a significant period in American history, and
that is also his function (Savage 1979, 38). Despite the closing of the literal frontier, the
cowboy’s story carries on in the new American frontier because he contributes an integral
part to America’s self-identity (Slotkin rev. ed. 1998, 4, 24). The cowboy has
transcended time – lasting for more than a century as an icon47 – by evoking the image of
America in the past (Savage 1979, 38). This led Savage to conclude that America’s
acceptance of the cowboy was indicative of his stature as a myth (Savage 1979, 3).
Because of the cowboy’s ubiquitous presence in the American mythos, Bush is
thus able to utilize cowboy ethics as a tactical tool for communicating his
administration’s foreign policy actions. The cowboy’s “Code of the West” allows Bush
to allude to the past Americans romanticize, while making a strong argument for the