«There are good Indians and there are, of course, bad Indians. But if you treat them as your equals, and not as savages, you’ll never regret it.» In the aftermath of World War II, a new hero was born in Italy and conquered a large audience: Tex Willer. Within the framework of classical American iconography, the tales of the legendary Texas ranger drew on the culture of Italy’s recent past (Fascist era films, the Resistance, Neorealism) and contemporary social and political reality (constitutional legality, political corruption). Tex defends the weak, fights against the bad guys, has no existential doubts, quickly forgives those who wrong him, sets aside his own anger, respects others’ traditions, and is willing to break laws in order to achieve justice. Tex Willer is both an emblematic hero of the American epic and a steadfast mirror of Italians’ emotional outlook and anthropological traits.
Elizabeth Leake teaches in the Department of Italian at Columbia University, New York.