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The unexpected cowboy in the arts
February 15, 2010 5:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples from literature, comic books, film, and other media, in which a character, for no clear reason (or unexpectedly), is a cowboy.

Some examples: Cowboy Curtis from Pee Wee's Playhouse and Jeff Goldblum in Buckaroo Banzai. It's not necessary that the fact that they dress as cowboys is incidental to the plot -- although it helps -- just that they are the only cowboy in the story, and the fact of them is rather surprising, like the Texan Quincey Morris in Dracula.
posted by Astro Zombie to Media & Arts (46 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Robert Picardo in Inner Space?
posted by Leon at 5:14 PM on February 15, 2010


Mulholland Drive?
posted by mannequito at 5:14 PM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


"The Stranger" in The Big Lebowski?
posted by vytae at 5:15 PM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Woody in "Toy Story"
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:18 PM on February 15, 2010


Major Kong (the Slim Pickens character in "Dr. Strangelove".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:19 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cowboy Wally in The Cowboy Wally Show.
posted by lore at 5:20 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Buffalo Bob in Howdy Doody..
posted by HuronBob at 5:21 PM on February 15, 2010


Jake Marshall in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
posted by CarolynG at 5:22 PM on February 15, 2010


Quincey Morris in Dracula

The Stranger in The Big Lebowski
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:23 PM on February 15, 2010


Andy from Cowboy Bebop.

Yes, I know it's in Spanish. It's better that way!
posted by Jawn at 5:26 PM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nancy in Sin City is kind of a cowgirl.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:27 PM on February 15, 2010


Just to pick a different medium: Sheriff (and Mayor) Lucas Hayes in Fallout 3 (and his robot helpers, 'Deputy' Weld and 'Deputy' Steel).

Hayes's eccentricism is referred to by another character as "that weird cowboy thing he has going on", but it's otherwise unremarkable, irrelevant to the story, and rather out of place in the Northeast of 2277.
posted by rokusan at 5:30 PM on February 15, 2010


I don't know if this counts, but I always pictured Lee Scoresby as a cowboy when I read The Golden Compass.
posted by geekchic at 5:33 PM on February 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


The spectators in Devo's "Whip It" video.
posted by mreleganza at 5:34 PM on February 15, 2010


The mystery interrogator in Cruising. Here's the scene.
posted by bingo at 5:37 PM on February 15, 2010


Sawyer on Lost acts like and is frequently described as a cowboy.
posted by mmmbacon at 5:38 PM on February 15, 2010


In the season 4 finale of Buffy, "Restless," Willow's dream sequence involves a production of Death of a Salesman where Riley is randomly playing Cowboy Guy (a character obviously not actually in the play). He even comments how he got there early, so he got to be Cowboy Guy.
posted by ilana at 5:43 PM on February 15, 2010


The mystery interrogator in Cruising. Here's the scene.

Love that scene. One of the maddest in film history.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:46 PM on February 15, 2010


Don Cheadle's character in Boogie Nights, Buck Swope, dresses as a cowboy for seemingly no reason and is mocked throughout the movie for doing so.
posted by eggplantplacebo at 5:47 PM on February 15, 2010


Jeff Goldblum's excellent turn as New Jersey in Buckaroo Bonzai!
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:54 PM on February 15, 2010


Eli Cash in The Royal Tenenbaums.
posted by johnofjack at 5:55 PM on February 15, 2010


d'oh...should have read the whole op....damn Jeff Goldblum to hell
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:55 PM on February 15, 2010


Cowboy Curtis, of course! At Peewee's Playhouse.
posted by mneekadon at 6:04 PM on February 15, 2010


One of the Village People is a cowboy.

(I'll get my coat.)
posted by zadcat at 6:09 PM on February 15, 2010


Ben Tyler from Cuba Libre
posted by sswiller at 6:18 PM on February 15, 2010


I'm sure there's a zillion music videos like this.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:23 PM on February 15, 2010


The Naked Cowboy of Times Square.
posted by bru at 6:44 PM on February 15, 2010


There's an entire cowboy subplot on Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds set, inexplicably, in and around Dublin.
posted by scruss at 7:01 PM on February 15, 2010


Slightly less on-the-nose examples: The Saint Of Killers in the Preacher graphic novels, and Steve the cowboy vampire in TrueBlood. In both cases, their cowboy background is not really a mystery, but their ongoing cowboy identity in a non-cowboy world is weird.

Of course, it's weird on purpose, which connects to the whole idea of the cowboy as a loner, etc. etc.
posted by bingo at 7:09 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


B.D. Wong's character in The Salton Sea.
posted by puritycontrol at 7:24 PM on February 15, 2010


...and if one Asian cowboy wasn't enough to satisfy, let's also mention that Sock's mother married one in the TV show Reaper.
posted by puritycontrol at 7:33 PM on February 15, 2010


You might also consider gunslingers as another place to find unexpected cowboy type characters. Some that come to mind are Revolver Ocelot from Metal Gear who is essentially a cowboy in an espionage setting that is full of similarly out of place characters, Irvine from Final Fantasy VIII who dresses like a cowboy despite having the exact same sort of upbringing as all the other main characters, and Roland from Stephen King's The Dark Tower series who makes sense as being a cowboy but is continually out of place as he moves across a strange post-apocalyptic world.
posted by CheshireCat at 7:40 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dust Devil from the comic Top 10 (though the whole comic is full of strange genre-inspired characters, so having one be a cowboy-type might not be that unusual)
posted by cadge at 7:51 PM on February 15, 2010


Lee Scoresby is portrayed by Sam Elliott in the Golden Compass film, so I think his "hey, he's an inexplicable cowboy" cred is solidly established. (It may be that Americans in the Golden Compass universe just are cowboys and cowgirls, but that's not really established either.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:00 PM on February 15, 2010


I don't know if this counts, but I always pictured Lee Scoresby as a cowboy when I read The Golden Compass.

I even went to far as to picture him as iconic everycowboy Sam Elliott who, strangely enough, ended up cast in that role for the movie.
posted by ymendel at 8:08 PM on February 15, 2010


Dunno if this counts, but one of the protagonists in Hardwired is a cyber-hover-tank piloting blockage runner who goes by the moniker of "Cowboy".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:50 PM on February 15, 2010


Terrific juvenile graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale casts the lead as a cowgirl. Delightfully odd.
posted by carterk at 9:35 PM on February 15, 2010


This might not count but the title in Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille

It's been a while since I read the book... but I don't remember there being actual cowboys in this. But there's a Cowboy in the title.

Also, there was an episode of Cowboy Bebop that had an actual cowboy in it - for no particular reason, but I can't remember the episode title.
posted by patheral at 10:25 PM on February 15, 2010


I want to be a Cowboy; awesomely goofy 80's MTV video.
posted by ovvl at 11:10 PM on February 15, 2010


Gary Oldman's jaw-droppingly profound accent in The Fifth Element.
posted by ovvl at 11:12 PM on February 15, 2010


David Byrne's narrator character in True Stories is on the edge - he does wear hilarious cowboy outfits and point out that he's the only one wearing them...
posted by clipperton at 1:56 AM on February 16, 2010


Goro in Tampopo. Though it is sort of a western about running a noodle stand (but set in contemporary Japan).
posted by Kattullus at 7:04 AM on February 16, 2010


John Cleese, near the end in the original MPFC version of the Marriage Guidance Counselor sketch. His cowboy gives manly advice to the nebbish played by Michael Palin.
posted by droplet at 7:12 AM on February 16, 2010


Cowboy Ninja Viking
posted by anansi at 7:34 AM on February 16, 2010


Vassar Spore's bodyguard/love interest is a Malaysian guy who dresses like a cowboy while she travels around SE Asia in Carpe Diem. That's YA lit though, not sure if it's what you're looking for. Great book though!
posted by amicamentis at 8:16 AM on February 16, 2010


the mummy in Bubba Ho-Tep is dressed like a cowboy for some reason. of course it's also defeated by Elvis and black-JFK so there's taht....
posted by swbarrett at 8:35 AM on February 16, 2010


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