"A man outta do what he thinks is best." - Hondo
This is the basis and foundation of the Wayne ideal. The Wayne ideal being generalization of the variety of characters that John Wayne played. Maureen O’Hara wrote a letter to the John Wayne Birthplace Museum. She talked about the way Wayne chose projects. He would only play roles that had a strong moral drive. It is the main cause why audiences are so drawn to his characters. The Wayne ideal acts on morality and not intellect. Morality can be white, black and a hundred shades of grey but the Wayne ideal only sees the first two. Being lead by morality lends itself to hard and fast action.
Being moral driven brings with it an inherit sense of confidence. You don’t see Wayne fretting or worrying over a gunshot or punch. His moral drive gives him the confidence that he is always doing what he thinks is best. A distinguishing characteristic is his lack of preoccupation with honor. You see gentlemen of the 1850s- 1900‘s, about the times many of Wayne’s movies are set, obsessed with being perceived as ‘honorable’. He doesn’t care how he is perceived or respected. He cares about sleeping with a clean conscience knowing he did what he thought was right. Arguably, the most honorable thing.
Learn by Doing
Sam, the dog is Hondo’s trusted companion. He hunts for himself and doesn’t rely on Hondo for any kind of comfort.
Speaking about Sam the dog:
“No ma’am I don’t feed him either. Sam’s independent, he doesn’t need anybody. I want him to stay that way."- Hondo
His independence is represented differently in "The Quiet Man". A former boxer named Thornton returns to his birth country of Ireland to claim his birthright. The cabin he was born in had belonged to his family for generations. He comes to Ireland for a quiet life until he meets Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara).
In this plot line, Mary Kate Danaher is possibly the more independent of the two. She is a strong willed, woman that will only marry if certain demands are met by Thornton. It's important to remember that the lesson learned by the Wayne ideal is not only to be independent, but to respect independence.
Tough When Need Be
In "The Quiet Man" we learn why Thornton is reluctant to fight. He killed a man as his time as a boxer and vows never to fight again. It isn’t until he finds a woman worth fighting for that he starts the brawl the entire movie has been leading up to. This is one of the rarer occasions when love is the driving force to violence rather than a moral right or self protection.
Tough when need be is maybe the easiest way to describe the John Wayne ideal. He’s the one that knows when to act and to always act hard. Again, being lead by morality lends itself to fast and hard action. Hard action is the key to this segment. It’s not just the speed of action that the moral drive lends itself, but it’s the ferocity with which he acts. He makes a choice and he sees to it that the action is complete whether that is a punch in the mouth, escaping with wagons full of homesteaders or kissing the girl.
The ability to be tough when needed manifests when there is someone that needs defending. This toughness is never disguised as pity, sympathy or nurturing. This is an important distinction because the underdog, whether that be a widow or an entire town, generally has a specific problem that needs fixing. He won’t cling to a soft spoken or weak person, he is drawn to help the person that is doing their best to help themselves. The toughness of the Wayne ideal doesn’t show up until it is absolutely needed.
Gentle When Need Be
"When the Indians finish up their squaw-seekin' ceremony, they only say one thing: 'Varlabania.' It means 'forever.' Forever." -Hondo
Potentially the most controversial quality of the Wayne ideals. A person can watch John Wayne movies and claim that a quality never shown is gentleness. Gentleness is frequently shown in his harder characters. He is never the one that goes out of his way to be cruel. Decision making based on morality lends itself to gentleness when it is the right thing to do. The motto “A man otta do what he thinks is best.” will frequently point in the direction of gentleness.
Examples of gentleness may conjure images of gentleness towards women, but ‘Wayne’ gentleness is not limited to romance. There are many examples of companionship, friendship and respect. Many times gentleness is the direct path of justice. The Wayne ideal is not a socialite, it has a warm embrace of quality relationships.
Matter of Fact
“Everyone gets dead, it was just his turn.”- Hondo
This is a side effect of being morally driven. It gives a person the confidence of knowing that nothing is good or bad, it just is. This is a very zen like quality of the Wayne ideal. He doesn’t waste time or energy in grief or indecision. Greeting troubles with an attitude of ‘matter of fact’ will put you in a higher perspective to look down on the trouble to see the most efficient way to tackle it.
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