Asking and daring

High Noon is a cornerstone of American cinema, a sobering and memorable look at heroism and community.

In the movie, the sheriff is facing near-certain death at the hands of a killer freed from prison. He has about an hour to gather a posse of deputies, because together they’ll be able to repel the avenging outlaw when he arrives on the noon train.

As the clock ticks down, the marshal visits one part of the community after another, begging them to help him. And each finds a reason to say no, preferring short-term safety to long-term freedom, community belonging and heroism.

Howard Hawks, director of Rio Bravo, pointed out that the reason that the marshal failed to rally the community was that he was asking. In search of affiliation, he shared his fears and a story of mutual support as well as loyalty for what he’d done for them for so long.

In Rio Bravo, on the other hand, John Wayne does nothing of the sort. He regularly turns down offers of help, being selective about who’s worthy of being on his team. He shares no fear or trepidation. He’s selling status and dominance, not affiliation. “Are you good enough to be on this team?”

Humans are motivated by affiliation or by status. And in the archetypal old west, it was status that often carried the day. The same might be true for the community that you are part of.