Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Buffalo Bill" Cody

Our discussion about the representation of minorities in entertainment, specifically American Indians in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, prompted me to think about the representation of Buffalo Bill himself in popular culture. Given that he is one of the most popular subjects of film and television in recent history, the various portrayals of him vary significantly, from a flamboyant exhibitionist to a more stately entertainer.
Buffalo Bill has been a subject of film and television since shortly after his death in 1917, with the silent film "The Iron Horse," in which he was played by George Waggner, which debuted in 1924. Since then, he has been played by a variety of very famous actors, including: Roy Rogers, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, and Stephen Baldwin. His most recent "appearance" was on the Canadian television series "Murdoch Mysteries," which goes to show how wide-ranging his appeal is. Interestingly, Buffalo Bill was also very popular in Italy in the 1930's and 40's, so when Italy found itself at war with American, brochures were published that said that Buffalo Bill was actually an Italian immigrant named Domenico Tombini who was from the same province as Mussolini. Though there is no historical evidence for this, it allowed stories about him to continue to be published, now under the title of "Buffalo Bill, the Italian Hero of the Plains."
Even just his name has been used in many modes of entertainment that have nothing to do with him as a person, for example, the serial killer in "The Silence of the Lambs" is named "Buffalo Bill", and Eminem's most recent album, "Relapse," includes a track called "Buffalo Bill." All of these examples just prove his extreme appeal and popularity in contemporary culture, both in the United States and all over the world.

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