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Gabbard, K. (1995). The Quick and the Dead. Psychoanal. Rev., 82(5):766-769.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Review, 82(5):766-769

The Quick and the Dead

Krin Gabbard, Ph.D.

In spite of what the advertising campaign for The Quick and the Dead promised, Sharon Stone does not become the female Clint Eastwood. In the previews and television spots for the film, Stone squinted, smoked cigarettes, and spoke in an affectless monotone as she taunted the various threatening characters. Although she does all these things in the film, she is also extremely emotional, often breaking down and crying when the killing becomes too much for her. I don't recall Clint Eastwood ever having this problem. Perhaps The Quick and the Dead was meant to show what a “feminized” Clint Eastwood might look like. In Hollywood today, however, this kind of gender-bending remains an oxymoron.

The Quick and the Dead was dreamed up after Eastwood's financial and critical success with Unforgiven (1992) but before the instructive failure of another postfeminist Western, Bad Girls (1994). Significantly, The Quick and the Dead was made to order for Stone, who served as co-producer. But to place a woman, even one as intimidating as Stone, into an Eastwood slot is to ask for a difficult if not impossible revision of Hollywood's strict gender regulations. Unforgiven, like a handful of Westerns that preceded it, marked the return of a previously discredited form of American masculinity. East-wood, who always seems to know which way the wind is blowing, had once been part of a countertradition in which conventional notions of maleness had been undermined and questioned. In Bronco Billy (1980) he made fun of the old western hero, and in Tightrope (1984) he seemed to be exposing the pathological nature of much that is typically “male.”

But in Unforgiven the beleaguered white male shows that he is not to be trifled with. The film opens with Will Munny (Eastwood), a widower, struggling to raise two children on a small farm. At one point his young son announces, “Hey, Pa, two more hogs got the fever.”

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