I’m on holiday these days, which means (a) reading books rather than blogging and (b) watching far too many movies.  Tonight:  that quintessentially male western, Tombstone.  Somewhat surprisingly, I found myself not merely being entertained by Val Kilmer’s salacious lines, but provoked into two reflections on life and pop culture.

1)  Wyatt Earp, adequately played by Bill Russell, experiences what seems like a typical struggle with competing desires for rootedness and adventure, but with a modern twist.  On the one hand, he talks himself into wanting kids and a home–after all, men have to grow up.  But when confronted with a voluptous lady whose personal interests include “having fun,” hating boredom and “living on room service,” he must confront the authenticity of his choice.  Rather than adventure and a desire to fight for the good, Earp is tempted by frivolity and leisure, a poor substitute.

2)  It is incumbent upon men to “get involved.”  When the Earp brothers arrive in Tombstone, their plan is to (a) make money, (b) make money and (c) have families.  Working as the law, in other words, is out.  They weren’t going to “get involved with that.”  But as the eldest brother rightly sees, they have an obligation to the citizens of the town they live in, to do what they can to preserve the law.  In other words, men sometimes have to set aside their personal plans and take an interest in what is otherwise bothersome to them.

Surely there are more reflections to be had, but the beach (which is conveniently parked directly outside our back door) is calling. 

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. One tiny niggling point – wasn’t Wyatt Earp played by Kurt Russell? FWIW, I prefer the 50s version with Burt Lancaster as Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc. Regardless of the version, though, the reflections stand.


  2. Ack!

    Bruce, you are clearly correct. Bill Russell was a famous basketball player. Kurt Russell is an actor.

    You see, I was in Hawaii at the time and……..


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