In The Unforgiven, the supposed “other” character, Morgan Freeman, who plays Ned Logan, is far from the typical “other” role. Logan has a center role in the film, and is even included as a real cowboy in his trio of partners. Blacks in classic westerns are not educated or outspoken, nor do they have a leading role. In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, for example, Pompey only speaks when he is spoken to, and he is still under Tom Doniphon’s command. Logan is not subjected to a lower rank due to his race, rather he is accepted in society and Bill Munny even gets revenge for Logan’s death in the end.
In revisionist westerns, women are typically viewed as housewives, but in The Unforgiven, the women are prostitutes. After one of the prostitutes gets attacked for laughing at her clients “size,” the women feel the need to rightly punish the attacker. The sheriff says that the only punishment the attacker and his ally will receive is a debt to the owner of the prostitutes; seven ponies. The women are upset at this punishment because they thought the men should have been whipped or even subject to death. Consequently, the women attempt to get justice. This is not typical of women in classic westerns because women usually don’t fight for what they want. These women were very headstrong, in that sense.
Clint Eastwood’s character, Bill Munny, is the alpha male cowboy; however he is different from the typical alpha male cowboys of classic westerns. Munny does not travel alone, and his main partner is an African American. This is uncommon in traditional westerns because the alpha male cowboy travels alone and let alone is he considered equal to an African American. Munny also has a family at home, which is also untypical of alpha males in classic westerns due to their being alone. In the end, Munny kills many innocent people. Usually the alpha male cowboy only kills and acts out of the “greater good.”
This film is very revisionist in many ways. The most important way is that the alpha male is getting revenge not for a family member, not solely for a woman, but for the death of his good friend, who happens to be an African American.