This essay argues that since the 2008 economic collapse, the popularity of the rugged cowboy has significantly increased in American film, television, and of particular interest to this essay, video games. As the reformed gunslinger/cowboy/outlaw John Marston in Red Dead Redemption (released by Rockstar games in 2010), players go west in a 3-D diegetic universe that furthers and, more importantly, rejuvenates the hierarchy of national identities, informed by racial, gendered, and economic status, that has comprised the cultural field of the United States in one form or another since the early twentieth century. On the digital frontier, Red Dead Redemption resuscitates white, middle class, heteronormative identity in the form of those who own small ranching operations and homesteads, and through these representations, teaches its players that suffering, loss, and rapid technological change are simply part of life. Red Dead Redemption naturalizes and, therefore, depoliticizes the economic downturn. This digitized frontier operates as a safety valve for the pressures brought to bear on American citizenry by the continued repercussions of the 2008 collapse.


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pp. 200-215
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