The Center for the Study of the American West (CSAW) and Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (PPHM) at West Texas A&M University will present “Red Dead Rouge,” a panel discussion exploring women’s roles in the Old West, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 28 at the PPHM, Hazlewood Lecture Hall.
The discussion will have an emphasis on the portrayal of these roles in the video game Red Dead Redemption II (RDRII), and the panel includes WT faculty members Dr. Amy Von Lintel, associate professor of art history, Dr. Jean Stuntz, professor of history, Dr. Alex Hunt, director of CSAW, and AJ McCormick, assistant director of CSAW.
Von Lintel studies modern art’s intersection with the Texas Panhandle as well as the portrayal of women in art; Stuntz studies Texas and US women’s history; Hunt focuses on the American West, Southwest literature, and Panhandle ranching history; and McCormick studies literature and rhetoric, with an ecocritical emphasis.
Following a brief introduction of how women are depicted in RDRII, panelists will connect their areas of study with the panel topic. Clips from RDRII will be shown and discussed by the panelists. After the main discussion, audience members will have a chance to interact in a question-and-answer session.
Hunt says that the RDRII project is a new initiative. “It seems that the way that older generations got their idea of the West from movie and tv westerns, and from western novels, the upcoming generation is learning about the West from video games. This is different in a lot of ways, including that it is more interactive.”
RDRII follows the (mis)adventures of Arthur Morgan as he and his outlaw gang struggle to survive in an increasingly civilized West. Throughout the game, Morgan encounters various Western women such as outlaws, aristocrats, prostitutes, suffragettes, and scientists.
“With video games, educators are given a unique opportunity to bridge student interest in popular culture with academic context,” McCormick said. “This multimodal panel discussion strives to do just that.”
CSAW recently collaborated with the museum to open “Red Dead University,” which is a combination of gaming lounge and exhibition, encouraging academic gameplay of RDRII. Both Hunt and McCormick serve on CSAW’s directorial board as director and assistant director, respectively.
“A large component of CSAW’s Red-Dead-themed events is to utilize PPHM as a research tool,” McCormick said. “Attendees can hear about gender representations in the West at the discussion or watch this representation in the video game and then see in-person the relics of these women’s lives.”
In addition to the RDRII gaming setup, the “Red Dead University” features artifacts from the old West, the setting for the videogame. CSAW hopes this exhibition will serve as a research starting point for WT students and faculty.
“It just so happens,” Hunt said, “that the historical setting of RDRII, which is 1899, is a very good match to the strength of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museums’ collections. So the exhibit shows art, western dress, weapons and tools, and so on. The idea is to show how useful the museum is to researchers studying the American West.”
Similarly, PPHM’s new “Cattle, Cowboys, & Cultures” exhibition features Western objects and artifacts such as saddles, photographs, letters, architectural renderings, and other functional goods in the PPHM collections. Von Lintel co-curated the exhibit.
Those interested in conducting their own research on RDRII or related topics are encouraged to visit current PPHM exhibitions as well as contact CSAW for help with facilitating research and for information on conference and publication opportunities for completed research.
-West Texas A&M University