For many, John Wayne continues to be a symbol of the American way of life. Even though he died in 1979, his legacy endures today through his classic films and, of course, his family. At his peak, however, there was hardly a person alive more synonymous with the United States. During an episode of the John Wayne Gritcast, Ethan, Patrick, and Marisa Wayne talked about how their dad represented our nation’s core values.
At the end of September, an Ethan Wayne-hosted podcast called Gritcast dropped its first episode. Much to our delight, the first guests Ethan invited on were his siblings, Patrick and Marisa. One would be hard-pressed to find a better authority on the life and times of John Wayne than three of his children in one room.
“Beyond Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne represented the value set and the character of our country. And the older I get, the more I think, oh my god, he kept this country—I have a terrible vocabulary, but what would the word be? He inspired people to be better and to embrace those character traits and value sets that he represented on screen because he took the best of us as a people and put that into one guy,” said Ethan Wayne.
Marisa Wayne chimed in during Ethan’s comments, adding “the core foundations of the United States” to the things Duke represented on screen.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Wayne kids’ conversation is how intimately they knew their dad. The John Wayne they describe as representing “core values” was the public-facing persona Duke cultivated for years. In reality, he was much more than a symbol. At the end of the day, he was just a guy.
John Wayne’s Kids See a Gap in Contemporary Entertainment Where Their Dad Used to Be
Maybe part of the reason John Wayne remains such a prominent symbol for the American way is that there haven’t been many to replace him since he died. Ethan mentioned Jimmy Stewart in his comments. The “It’s a Wonderful Life” star certainly checked a similar box in terms of representing an entire nation, but he’s been gone for more than 20 years as well.
In the Gritcast episode, the Wayne kids discuss what they see as a shift in TV and film toward raw entertainment value.
“When I watch those series—and they’re good, and they’re entertaining—by the end of it, I’m like, I don’t even like anybody anymore, but I just want to get to the end of it just to see what happens. All of a sudden, I’m liking in “Ozark” the evil lawyer,” said Marisa.
All of the Wayne kids insist that much of the content is excellent. Much of it just lacks that aspirational quality John Wayne brought to his movies.