Is ‘The Mandalorian’ a Western or a Samurai Show?
Art and Experience: The Mandalorian is all the rage on Disney+, but there’s a growing debate over whether or not it’s a western or samurai show. So which is it?
If you thought the battles in The Mandalorian stayed only in space, you are wrong.
Right now a debate wages across the Internet on whether or not The Mandalorian is an homage to samurai or western TV series and films.
Today, let’s look at both arguments and dissect where our bounty hunter takes most of his cues from. So strap on your spurs and gas up your wrist-mounted flamethrower. We’re about to earn some Imperial credits.
This Show Is a Western!
Star Wars came out in 1977, and you can see John Ford’s influence all over the screen. From the sweeping landscapes of Tattooine to Han Solo’s thigh holster, we can see westerns all over the screen.
The Mandalorian is an extension of the Star Wars universe, set during the years after Return of the Jedi.
Instead of the Man With No Name, we get a Man With No Face. With episode titles like “The Gunslinger”, we know what we’re in for. Bounty hunting happens all the time in the western genre. We often see these tropes in Spaghetti Westerns, Tarantino movies, and western serials like Gunsmoke and The Rifleman.
According to ScreenCrush: Previous episodes included visual or narrative references to The Searchers, The Magnificent Seven, Shane, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly just to name a few of the most obvious inspirations.
If that’s not enough, one of John Wayne’s relatives is Pedro Pascal’s double in the show — COME ON!
It’s a Samurai Show!
Star Wars is also more than just a western. It’s about a lone swordsman who travels the galaxy like a ronin swinging a laser sword. And The Mandalorian is no different.
The show is obviously an homage to Lone Wolf and Cub, a popular manga about a samurai taking care of a baby.
Mando is the muscle for hire, a shogun with no Emperor to command him. But he’s not really a loner, he has a people and an honor, and even as he works alone, his people show up when he needs them.
The ronin have a moral code, just like the Guild and the Mandalorian.
Outside of that, Eastern tradition is at the forefront with his fighting style and the philosophy is the heart of the story.
It’s Both, Idiots!
Westerns and Samurai films come from the same set of tropes. Seven Samurai beget the Magnificent Seven. The lone swordsman and gunman have a very similar set of ideals. And directors from both sets of films deeply admired the work of the others.
Even the shows creators talked about both!
· Dec 2, 2019
As if the Western and the Samurai film aren’t closely related genres that have been in conversation with each other and swapping influences for over 60 years. Kurosawa loved John Ford as much as Leone loved Kurosawa. https://twitter.com/TheRochaSays/status/1201211852128018432 …
We talked about both pretty equally.
8:35 AM – Dec 2, 2019
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Writer Wally Brennan says the western and samurai only have one big difference, the violence: “Because of this difference in context, samurai movies are more likely to be tales that warn against a reckless embrace of violence, while Westerns are inclined to be propaganda that glorifies violence serving particular ends.”
I’d argue that each episode varies in how it handles death and violence at the center of the story.
The main take away from this debate is that the best genres and ideas are available to take. The more movies and TV you watch, the more you can incorporate and then the more you can find your own voice and universe to explore.
King Solomon once said “there are no new ideas under the sun,” so take his advice and beg, borrow, steal, or do whatever that helps you get your story across.