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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Back to the 80s: ‘Urban Cowboy’

Two-stepping and two-facing relationships
The+1980+western+romance+film+called+%E2%80%9CUrban+Cowboy%E2%80%9D+takes+toxic+love+to+new+heights.+%28Graphic+created+in+Canva+by+Alyssa+Branum+and+photo+courtesy+of+Paramount+Pictures%29
Alyssa Branum
The 1980 western romance film called “Urban Cowboy” takes toxic love to new heights. (Graphic created in Canva by Alyssa Branum and photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Urban Cowboys and bull-riding are always questionable movie topics, but when John Travolta and his blue eyes come across the screen in the film “Urban Cowboy” attention is sure to rise.

Kicking off the 80s, this toxic western romance is one audiences are still dazzled by due to its amazing casting and interesting love trope. This film stars Travolta and Debra Winger, who play the married toxic couple, Bud and Sissy Davis.

 

The film begins when country boy Bud moves to Pasadena, Texas and starts hanging around the Western themed bar Gilley’s. There he meets hot-headed cowgirl, Sissy, who not only catches Bud’s attention for her looks and beauty, but her beliefs too.

When the two are soon married, problems arise due to Sissy’s daring views and Bud’s over traditional beliefs. Sissy believes the sexes to be equal, while Bud just wants a woman to come home and have dinner on the table.

RELATED: Back to the 80s: ‘Flash Dance’

Outside of their star crossed lover trope, Bud and Sissy’s relationship makes modern day toxic couple, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, seem tame in comparison to their abusive antics and destructive attitudes.

In 2024, domestic violence and abuse are themes directors, such as Greta Gerwig and Jon Favreau, would work to portray more tastefully and sensitively than the director for “Urban Cowboy” James Bridges did.

If it weren’t for Bridges’ insightful decision to cast the leading man as Travolta, known for his iconic roles in “Grease,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Saturday Night Fever,” this western toxic tale would not be worth the watch.

Sissy (Debra Winger) and Bud (John Travolta) standing around watching people ride the electric bull in Gilley’s. (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Throughout the film Bud and Sissy can be seen going behind each other’s backs, lying and doing anything to make their partner jealous.

Despite the Western theme, this movie is far from a traditional Western romance, due to the fact that Bud and Sissy spend over half the movie at each others throats. “Urban Cowboy” to today’s standards would be considered more of a drama than a romance film.

A film as toxic as this requires viewers to remember that times were different in the 80s, and that cowboys and cowgirls slapping and kicking each other, seems to have been considered an appealing form of entertainment. Especially considering films such as “Footloose,” “Mommie Dearest” and “Independence Day” are also honorable mentions of the decade.

Outside of Bud and Sissy’s relationship, the story follows the plot of what Bud and his co-workers do after work at Gilley’s. Gilley’s is a traditional country bar with country music blasting, limited alcohol selection and, of course, the run-down and popular mechanical bull in the corner.

The mechanical bull gives Bud a chance to relax and show off to his new Texas friends, but also turns into something he is good at. Bud soon becomes the bar’s longest rider on the electric bull.

As Bud starts to idealize his time at the bar riding the bull, he begins to spend less and less time with his adoring wife Sissy.

As a way to catch his attention, Sissy disobeys Bud’s one rule of not riding the electric bull at Gilley’s and takes a secret devilish ride one morning behind Bud’s back. After that, their relationship and marriage ends abruptly.

This is where the film meets a whole different level of toxicity. Bud finds himself a low-browed traditional woman, who is nothing like Sissy. Their relationship is a lot more simple and easier for Bud to follow.

Pam (Madolyn Smith) and Bud Davis (John Travolta) slow dancing in Gilley’s. Bud starts dating Pam after his toxic-break from Sissy. (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Sissy loves herself a cowboy and when Wes Hightower, the new-hire at Gilley’s played by Scott Glenn, takes an interest in her, another toxic relationship forms.

Sissy and Bud continue in their childish actions of making the other jealous, till one day after an electric bull riding competition, the two reconcile and fall back in love.

Bud and Sissy do more flip-flopping between love and hatred in this film, than anything else. Themes apparent in this movie are so washed out by the complete poor portrayal of these characters that there are no real 80s era tropes explored.

This movie is not worthy of its hype, because it’s basically just a remake of the 1977 film “Saturday Night Fever.” Travolta and his blue eyes do all the talking and his good looks are truly what makes these movies great.

Unlike “Saturday Night Fever” and Travolta’s dazzling white suit, in this film he is adorned in brown and black large cowboy hats and pointed toe leather boots. All the makings of what Sissy would consider a real cowboy.

“Urban Cowboy” is a film with themes of toxic masculinity, domestic violence and goofy mechanical-bull riding that in the 2024 modern era has not aged well.

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Katelyn Marano
Katelyn Marano, Copy Editor
(she/her) Katelyn Marano is a graduating senior with a major in journalism and a minor in English. She is currently in her second semester here at The State Hornet and is the copy editor for the spring 2024 semester. Katelyn enjoys reading and writing, and hope to take her degree into book publishing.
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