"Because we lost the war."

That's another line from the author Walker Percy, in answer to a question about why the South produced so many fine writers. And if it's true what John Gardner wrote in On Moral Fiction, that art begins in a wound, well, then it makes no small amount of sense.

But what, I wonder, accounts for the use of Confederates as cinematic protagonists? Why was the outlaw Josey Wales a former Confederate? Why were both the male leads of True Grit former Confederates? Why is John Carter of the upcoming John Carter a former Confederate?

Of course, there are some films about former Union soldiers as well. Dances with Wolves, for example. But that was about a soldier who rejects his former identity. Rooster Cogburn, on the other hand, has to recover his former identity. Ditto John Carter.

They're both honorable men who have been stripped of something, and who go about getting it back. And I do believe there are other examples of this. (Anyone want to help out here?)

The Confederates were on the wrong side. Why, then, do they make the better heroes? Is it just that deep down, we love a rebel? Is it because, even as we espouse democracy and equality, we still believe in aristocracy and individual greatness? I have my own suspicions, but I'd love to hear your thoughts, dear readers.

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