These are uncomfortable times for John Wayne fans. The “Duke”, as he was nicknamed, came to define the western genre. From John Ford’s Stagecoach, The Quiet Man, The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance to Howard Hawks’ Red River and Rio Bravo, and Henry Hathaway’s True Grit, Wayne appeared in multiple cast-iron classics. However, in the era of Black Lives Matter, many find his political views repellent. No one has forgotten the interview he gave to Playboy in 1971 in which, using homophobic language, he advocated white supremacy.
The backlash against Wayne is well under way. There were calls last summer for John Wayne airport in Orange County, California, to be renamed. Meanwhile, an exhibition dedicated to him at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts was taken down in July amid a heated discussion about “systemic racism in our cultural institutions”.
Film lovers are therefore having to wrestle with the John Wayne paradox: one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars is also a symbol of much that is toxic about white America.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies