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Yellowdog's avatar

Would the T.V. series "Little House on the Prairie" (1974-1982) be considered a Western?

Asked by Yellowdog (12216points) January 7th, 2020

As many of you know, the series ran eight seasons, and the second/third season was the American Centennial (1876) to coincide with the 1976 American Bicentennial. The series is based on a series of books for young readers written in the early 1900s, and the setting is Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

I was having a discussion with a friend, and we agreed that the series qualifies in that it represents pioneer / frontier life between the American Civil War (1865) and the early 1900s. and the plots mostly revolve around a hero (Charles Ingalls) and the community, as written and remembered by his daughter Laura. Like a Western, it emphasizes the importance of honor, bravery, honesty, and sacrifice.

Unlike a Western, the pioneer setting is not as far Western as other series such as Dr. Quinn, Paradise, the Rifleman, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Bonanza, etc etc. It as no guns or desporados or pioneer gunslingers or rangers. It has ranchers but no cattledrives.

So, in that regard, it is more like the many Anne of Green Gables (Prince Edward Island, Canada) series, or later eastern U.S. settings such as The Waltons—which Little House has more in common with than a series such as Bonanza or Wanted Dead or Alive.

So, does Little House on the Prairie constitute a Western? What does constitute a Western and how does the series fit?

Feel free to discuss movie / T.V. shows and genres but please stay within related topics. We need more non-political discussions on Fluther.

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10 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

In literary terms, the books (and therefore TV show) are classified as Western. The location was considered “west”, and there was a lot of conflict, “wild Indians”, and minimal government/laws.

Inspired_2write's avatar

“It as no guns or desperadoes or pioneer gunslingers or rangers. It has ranchers but no cattle drives.”

There are so many categories of living so not all have the usual guns and fights etc

Imagine is one just researched“Pioneer Home life” it would be vastly different than the desperadoes that we are so used to viewing on TV or movie show since domestic life wasn’t all that exciting yet it takes place in the Pioneer era so it is a Western category story.

By the way Pioneers were in every Country so each would be made of a range of variants as to lifestyle etc
( Think about Ukrainian, Polish, Japanese,Chinese,French Pioneers and many more)

Darth_Algar's avatar

I would not call it such.

kritiper's avatar

According to two dictionaries I have, a “western” is about western life. No mention of horses or guns. So I say the answer is yes.

Sagacious's avatar

No,I would call it a pioneer/frontier early American film

jca2's avatar

In this definition, no.

@YARNLADY : I don’t recall any “wild Indians” in the show “Little House on the Prairie.”

Darth_Algar's avatar

Rather than getting hung up on definitions and details (which often is missing the forest for the trees), to me the western is as much a certain feel (which, honestly, I’m not really sure I can put into words) rather than specific tropes or locations. Little House on the Prairie, simply put, just doesn’t feel like a western. It’s a saccharine family-friendly drama of the kind that were popular in its day. On the other hand, a series like Breaking Bad, despite it’s contemporary, largely urban, setting, use of modern technology, drug themes and lack of cowboys or savage Indians, very much has that western feel.

zenvelo's avatar

Westerns involve morality issues that must be faced in a hash landscape with no consistent law enforcement, or where law enforcement is as much of the environmental struggle as the landscape. That’s why The Mandalorian is essentially a Western.

LHOTP was, as others have mentioned, more like The Waltons, where the morality was clearly defined and straying from that moral certainty was punished clearly and decisively.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Gah, I have yet to watch the Mandalorian. I was waiting until all episodes were available, but by the time that happened I’d already grown annoyed by the whole “Baby Yoda” thing.

ucme's avatar

I always considered it a tale of religious cowpoke, his wife was sexy though.

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