Thanks to series like Hell On Wheels ...
... Deadwood ...
... Red Dead Redemption ...
... and basically every Western movie ever made, we picture the Wild West as one big nonstop shootout wherein drunken strangers constantly murdered one another over minor insults and offensive mustaches. Towns were seemingly nothing but roving gangs of bloodthirsty thugs and one token bartender perpetually wiping a glass.
In reality, most towns of the time averaged about 1.5 murders per year. Granted, their populations weren't huge, but more people than that die in every single frame of Django Unchained. Also, handguns back then were so inaccurate (and malfunctioned so often) that you'd be lucky to hit anything even if you tried. Forget about Clint Eastwood shooting a hangman's rope from a mile away -- in reality, it would be ten feet, and he'd be happy if the gun worked at all.
So why do we have this ultra-violent conception of the West? Well, back then, rumors about how many people got shot over poker games were greatly exaggerated in order to increase the dangerous "appeal" of places. Bored citizens were looking for adventure, and the idea of shadowy saloons full of dangerous outlaws and mysterious women was a lot more appealing than, say, staying on the farm and playing with that stick and hoop thingy.
Hey, also, did you realize someone made a Marty Mcfly-as-Clint Eastwood Halloween costume you can own? We know it's February, but still.
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