Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" is a movie that transformed American cinema as audiences know it today. Another movie, Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven," breaks boundaries of the western genre and goes deeper than most Westerns by making a statement that violence is not merely wrong, but caused by the insecurities of the males in town. These films explain violence by the use of symbols, characters, and various themes. In the two films, the characters use guns and knives, producing phallic symbols, revealing the influence of "Bonnie and Clyde" on "Unforgiven."
For instance, from the beginning of "Unforgiven," the theme of machismo within the town is set by Quick Mike not appreciating Delilah Fitzgerald's giggling at the size of how poorly he is endowed. In order to teach her a lesson, he proceeds to cut up Delilah's face with his knife. He feels satisfied in knowing that no man is going to desire her services any longer. Quick Mike's goal is to make Delilah feel as insecure as he does while by mutilating her body. By reinforcing his insecurity through physical harm to proves no one else will disrespect him to the same degree ever again.
In addition, within "Bonnie and Clyde," Bonnie commits no physical harm to Clyde, but instead mocks Clyde for his lack of masculinity. When Clyde gets the bank teller to come outside and explain to Bonnie why he virtually has no money, Bonnie laughs in Clyde's face. This was supposed to be the easiest heist they had, yet he unable to correctly pull off the robbery. Another instance is when Bonnie questions Clyde about wanting to be alone with her. He immediately changes the subject to food rather than confront his inabilities to please her. Bonnie even takes away the masculinity of the Frank Hamer when she's waving the gun in front of his face. Those are just some of the many instances within the film that the masculinity is taken away from the person who stereotypically should have control.
Similarly between the two films, the scene in "Unforgiven" where Delilah offers her services, "a free one", to Munny like Ned and The Schofield Kid have been taking. Instead of agreeing to take "a free one," Munny refuses her because he claims he has a wife back home. The wife has been long then deceased. He does not refuse her offers because he did not find her attractive. Even though she initially figures that he does not want her because of the scars on her face, he assured her that, "I didn't want a free one with Alice or Silky. Because of my wife back home. I reckon if I was to want a free one, it would be with you."
This scene corresponds with the scene in "Bonnie and Clyde", directly after Clyde robs Ritts Groceries in town after they share a Coca-a-Cola. The pair steal a car and start driving as far away from that part of town as they possibly can. Bonnie is all over Clyde in the car and he tells her that she should slow down before getting completely out of the car. "I might as well tell you right off, I ain't much of a lover boy. That don't mean nothing personal about you." He further goes onto explain that nothing is wrong with him and it's not that he "don't like boys." This explanation doesn't please Bonnie though who says, "Your advertising is just dandy, folks never guess you don't have a thing to sell." While many can debate Clyde was a homosexual, it could also be argued in this scene that he just wanted to show her she was worth more than just sex.
When Daggett explains how Corky attains his nickname as Two Guns, the story exemplifies machismo as well. Daggett informs Beauchamp the name is because of the size of Corky's penis, not because he carries two guns. Explaining this, Daggett reinforces why Quick Mike is so upset by Delilah Fitzgerald's actions. He informs the audience watching every single man in the town is going to be quick to act out toward others, proving how bad each man happens to be. Daggett tells the story also to inform Beauchamp how long he has been around and how he always manages to survive. Explaining such a story to Beauchamp not only tells him of Daggett's successes, but also explains to him of how all successful men are the one's standing at the end of the day.
While in "Unforgiven" the phallic symbol can be construed as various guns and knives used, the same can be viewed within "Bonnie and Clyde." While the gun is an obvious phallic symbol throughout the film, when Bonnie and Clyde are drinking their Coke in town there are two symbols used to represent something a bit more than meets the eye. The way Bonnie is drinking from the Coke bottle could represent that she is interested in Clyde for more than just his friendship. This is a notion brought up throughout the duration of the film, but this is the first instance of her desire to have a relationship with him.
Regardless of how their relationship progressed, or what many scholars think about the Clyde's character, Clyde shows arousal for Bonnie by the way he was bobbing the toothpick up and down in his mouth. To complicate matters more, when Clyde pulls his gun out of his jacket pocket, in the same scene, he strategically places the gun slightly above his left thigh. Whether or not he is physically drawn to Bonnie or not, an attraction between the two characters are made through the use of phallic symbols.
Machismo comes into play once more when Ned Logan, The Schofield Kid, and William Munny are riding through the countryside on their way to Big Whiskey. When Logan discovers that The Schofield Kid has a vision problem, he speaks of the hawk above their heads and how he could shoot it with ease, knowing The Schofield Kid would express the ability to do the same. He knows this because The Schofield Kid refuses to be considered unmanly. In fact, The Schofield Kid takes offense at the words of Logan and threatens to shoot him.
The Schofield Kid's threat proves that he is insecure about his inability to shoot at close range. The Schofield Kid feels insecure about his skills, which come easily to his traveling partners, making him feel he must shoot Logan. He must prove that he is just like every other man and more importantly has the same abilities as Logan and Munny.
In "Bonnie and Clyde" the scene in which C. W. Moss meets Bonnie and Clyde for the first time conjures the same emotions as the aforementioned scene. The pairing have to stop at a gas station and once again Clyde has proven how he has failed Bonnie in the stereotypical fashion of a man supporting a female. As the scene progresses we can see the balance shifting between Clyde and Moss but more importantly we see a boy yearning to become a man.
Likewise, The Schofield Kid is actually labeled as being a kid, but this notion is obvious to viewers that C. W. Moss is supposed to be the child of the group also. Moss is the one who could gain the most by riding with Bonnie and Clyde, but that all depends on how many risks he is willing to take with his life. The one thing Moss does not take into account are the various times that Bonnie and Clyde will be attacked, consequently making them attack anyone else who is in the gang. The solemn look on his face as he is driving into the camp ground where the oakies are reveals that he is not sure what is going to happen to Bonnie and Clyde.
In this instance Moss is not as naive anymore, much like The Schofield Kid after he shot Quick Mike for harming Delilah. Again, after Little Bill Daggett approaches English Bob, who refuses to give up his firearms the first time, Daggett forces him to give up his firearms the second time. Though Daggett's masculinity is questioned by his deputies, he proves them wrong by kicking English Bob down the street in front of the whole town. He proves that he is the man to be reckoned with. He goes further by arresting both English Bob and W.W. Beauchamp to prove no one will bring firearms into his town.
In jail Daggett gives his own gun to Beauchamp, along with the key to the cell English Bob is in. Daggett then explains to Beauchamp if he shoots him then he and English Bob are free to leave. Beauchamp shows that he is insecure with his own firing skills by walking over to English Bob's cell to give him the gun. The challenge reveals Daggett does not feel that Beauchamp is man enough to shoot him in the first place and that English Bob does not trust Daggett. It also proves Daggett's ego is so enormous he has to stroke even more by threatening them both with an outcome that can only end in violence.
Likewise, there are many challenges the gang faces within "Bonnie and Clyde". For instance, Clyde's impotence is something that he eventually needs to overcome in order to keep Bonnie with him. While she appears to love robbing banks, just like Buck and Clyde, she yearns for the life he once promised her. When Bonnie realizes that they are always going to be on the road, this presents yet another challenge for her. After all, the reason she left in the first place was to start a family and to better herself. And while Bonnie, Clyde, Buck, Blanche, and C. W. Moss have a type of family that wasn't the type of family she was looking for originally. Bonnie dreamed of having children with Clyde just not just because this is what people did back then, but because this would give her the family she ultimately desired.
Another challenge, in the movie, comes when Eugene Grizzard and Velma Davis take a car ride with the gang. Though everything is fine at first as soon as morality sets in Bonnie wants to have no part of it. While she wants to live on the dangerous side, to be close to Clyde, she wants to have both worlds. She yearns for the excitement, but ultimately Bonnie yearns to be normal, which is why she went along with Clyde in the first place.
Finally, both films reveal how they deal with the struggle over who has superiority. In "Unforgiven," once William Munny realizes that Daggett has killed his partner, Ned, all of the points he has made earlier on about how Claudia would not have approved of his actions are virtually erased. In fact, as soon as he learns where Skinny's establishment is located, he proceeds to shoot him for the mere fact that he is the one who has Ned's body in front of his business. Munny then shoots not only Daggett, but also four other men and dares any person still alive to stay only if he want to become dead as well.
Ultimately it is Munny, who states, "You better bury Ned right! Better not go cuttin' up...nor otherwise harm no whores... or I'll come back and kill every one of you sons-o-bitches," making him the superior man over the town of Big Whiskey. The fact that Munny has to get his point across with the use of a firearm not once, but five times in Skinny's establishment is a clear example of machismo by the use of guns. By shooting the five men, Munny proves he is superior over not just those men, but also the ones who leave when he gives his warning.
At the end of "Bonnie and Clyde", Ivan Moss and Frank Hamer bring back their superiority. They do this by diverging a plan that will eventually end up killing the crime duo. The Texas ranger has the reason of wanting to seek revenge on the gang after they made him look like a fool, but C. W.'s dad just wants revenge because they managed to lead his son into a life he deemed unacceptable. He also had a problem with that tattoo largely in part because men shouldn't degrade themselves by putting any marking (tattoo) on their body and Bonnie is the one who encouraged his son to commit this horrible deed. When the men's plan come full circle, the so-called good guys get the upper hand.
Both films test the audience to relate to characters that normally would not be represented as typical good guys. Clearly, machismo can be a damaging factor in everyday interactions or not-so-ordinary days events. In the various films, machismo is a powerful thing that ends up taking over the men, and a woman, in Bonnie's case, causing the way they interact with one another in the towns and with outsiders when their masculinity or security is in question. When people's masculinity or security is in question, both become a seed of doubt planted within their minds, dictating all the violent acts they begin to take amongst each other in addition to everyone else.
All things considered, by watching the two films at completely different times the influence of "Bonnie and Clyde" on "Unforgiven" came naturally. They are both films that reinvented what a typical genre film is supposed to be. While the writers of "Bonnie and Clyde" were inspired by many films before its time, writers and directors in today's society are still influenced by a film that was meant to be buried by the studios.
And last but not least, if you are interested in purchasing "Bonnie and Clyde" or "Unforgiven" make sure to check out your local Austell Best Buy, Movie Stop, Walmart, Target, or Kmart.