‘Quoting Cowboys’

False Idols of the Mythical West in The Power of the Dog

  • Carolina Rocha Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Keywords: the power of the dog, queer theory, hypermasculinity, cowboy culture, western, american west, jane campion


Although the events of Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog (2021) miss the golden age of frontier stories in the American West, its sullen protagonist clings obsessively to the myth of the cowboy—the ultimate figure of American masculinity, by then belonging to a distant past—as a means of disguising his taboo homosexual desires. Attempting to mimic the cowboys of old and stake his claim over the mythical landscape of the classical Western, Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) hides his shame behind layers of grime and aggression that the film gradually reveals as a mask—a mask which, as its cracks begin to show, reflect the fictitious nature of the idealized masculinity he is desperate to embody.

Author Biography

Carolina Rocha, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Carolina Rocha is an undergraduate student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where she is currently pursuing a BA in English and a Minor in Creative Writing. Her academic interests include queer theory, fandom culture, and classical studies, and she hopes to explore how Greco-Roman mythological inheritances permeate western literature in future research. She is a lifelong film enthusiast and is passionate about her creative as well as scholarly work—outside of her academic pursuits, she is a writer and works professionally as a graphic designer. Her personal essay, This is How You Say You Love Me, has recently been accepted at pulpMAG. This is her first academic publication.