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Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8281-6462 Olson Debbie

Abstract

The racial framework of Martin McDonagh’s 2017 film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri rests at the intersection of three persistent cultural myths—the Frontier Myth, the hero cowboy myth and the myth of white supremacy. There has been much criticism of the portrayal of black characters in the film, and particularly the lack of significant black characters in a film that sports a solid undercurrent of racial politics. While the black characters in the film occupy a small amount of screen time, this paper argues that the film’s treatment of black characters, including their absence, puts on display the cultural dysfunction of racial politics in the US, especially in rural America, and particularly in Missouri. The film’s subversion of the cowboy hero instead reveals the disturbing reality of the Frontier Myth and its dependence on racism and white supremacy for validation. In its unmasking of myth, Three Billboards challenges the illusion of a glorious Western past that never existed and at the same time supports racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Keywords

race, Black Lives Matter, the Western, Missouri, the Frontier Myth

Disciplines

American Film Studies | American Popular Culture | American Studies | Arts and Humanities | Film and Media Studies

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