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Celebrating spousal abuse

Last night I finished watching ‘McLintock!on YouTube, a later-career (1963) John Wayne film about a cattle baron with a feisty wife.  It’s also a celebration of spouse abuse.  One character, near the end of the movie trying to convince Wayne that it’s time to give his wife a good spanking, “My father said, when raising your voice stops working, you have to raise your hand.”  Guess what happens next! “My father would be proud of you!”

The gist of the movie is, GW McLintock (Wayne) is a tough but fair minded cattle baron in a US territory in the 1890s.  The relationship with the Comanche is interesting; McLintock is a former Indian fighter who speaks for the Comanche in a kangaroo court, and secretly supports their choice to die fighting instead of in prison.  The ranchers are at odds with the farmer settlers, who are looking for land to farm at 6000 feet above sea level (good luck.)

McLintock’s wife, Katie (Maureen O’Hara), is also tough, not fair, and rules her family with an iron parasol.  She has also separated from GW because of something she won’t talk about; she has moved out and comes back in the movie to help welcome home their daughter.

Said daughter falls in love with a young farmer, who happens to be a star pugilist who had to drop out of Purdue when his father died so he could help on the homestead.  Their love blossoms over fighting and, yes, when he spanks her for encouraging her father to shoot him, it’s clear love is in the air.

So the end is GW chasing Katie all over town, as she losses more and more clothing, until he finally catches her and spanks her in front of the whole town.  They he jumps in his carriage and leaves.  “Oh, no you don’t,” Katie cries, and suddenly able to run as fast as a horse in her heels (when she couldn’t outrun a Wayne-stride-through-town), she jumps on the back of the carriage.  Closing scene follows, with them embracing as silhouettes in the window.

Oh, did I mention, this is a comedy?

It is odd to watch a move like this, and both admire the slightly more respectful (for a cowboy movie) view of the Comanche situation in the 1890s.   Meanwhile, all the women in the film are just looking for the right strong man to tame them, break them like a wild horse.  Not even as an overtone — mother and daughter have multiple scenes where they slam a door or stalk off mad after being mistreated, then giving a sly sidelong glance and half smile at the abuser (husband, young beau.)

The sooner we erase these stereotypes from our cultures, the better the future will be.