Robert Altman created a movie that went against genre, mocked Hollywood, and gave insight on people’s perception of Indians. Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson was made for the bicentennial. It is a story about a cowboy and Indian show that starred Bill Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill. Cody is a culture icon in this movie, with examples present throughout the film. The story takes a turn when the show is able to hire Sitting Bull as one of the entertainers. But the hiring of Sitting Bull proves to be more of a hassle then anything else for Cody.
Western genres usually have many of the same elements. It has tough cowboys who are forced to dual at some point with an enemy, whether it be another cowboy or Indian. It takes place in western-like places with dirt roads and saloons. But this film is different. It has those elements, but it does not take on the role of a typical western film. Cody is known around the country. The show is known around the country. It is like a small community with tents and small homes set-up all over the set. People travel out to see the show which seems to be in the middle of no where in some small western town. The show turns into a money making machine. This is when Cody especially becomes greedy and wants more and more. It gets to the point where this legend in his own time starts breaking down because of his drinking. He fires the shows originator and what appears to be his manager and hires someone else. The new man in charge behind Cody seems to be more of a Hollywood type manager. The kind who can get as much as he and the show can handle. This is when he brings in Sitting Bull. Through all of this, Altman is able to mock Hollywood’s ways and steer away from a western genre while keeping it a western type film.
Altman’s first step in getting away from Hollywood was by filming in Canada, where it is cheaper to film. The show is a typical movie business atmosphere. The "American show" is something very familiar to Americans. This was a perfect example of how Hollywood works. Yet it was outside of Hollywood. People would get fired at the drop of a hat and people would forget many important things in life. This was because people, especially Cody, would be so wrapped up in the show they would eventually go crazy. A perfect example is when Cody takes out his gun and starts to shoot at the mistress’ bird. One of the biggest misconceptions of people is the misconception of the cowboy. This film shows how Hollywood depicts cowboys: as acrobatic horse riders, aggressive gun shooters, abusive alcohol drinkers, etc. This film is the perfect example of what the movies make of the west and of cowboys. It all says it in the title of the show, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.
Cody, played by Paul Newman, is the leader of this show. In a time when cowboys where not as common due to the railroad and barbed wire, Cody had to give a little extra to the people that would come to watch him. With the help of his background cast, people would pay to see him. When he is performing, he looks like the nicest man in the world. There to be everyone’s friend and to entertain them. But you see what he is really like when he is "behind the scenes." As viewers, people do not see how actors really act off screen. Someone’s favorite actor could really be a very nasty person. You do not know. You see how Cody acts because you see him on and off the stage. He is treated the same by all though. Like he is a god. The best example of Cody’s stature is when the opera singer is singing at the party when the president is there. In almost every shot, there is a picture of Cody. The pictures are all similar. With a proud look on his face like he is watching over all his people, up on a pedestal. You see pictures of Cody in the beginning before you even