“An indexical sign indicates or attests to the existence of something”; yet “indexicality implies nothing necessary about the form of the signifier, even in relation to the referent, nothing, for example, about whether the signifier ‘looks like’ the referent. (Does a weather vane ‘look like’ the wind?)” (Rosen, Rites of Realism, 48-49) → In the beginning of Bittersweet Life, the mention about the wind blowing at a distance whose existence is made perceptible (more specifically, visible) through swinging branches of a willow tree.
A weather vane does not look like the wind. Still, the arbitrary relationship between the weather vane (the signifier) and the wind (the signified) does not nullify the validity of the weather vane. The weather vane is like a prism through which the presence of the wind is made perceptible. Likewise, the Western is not the same as what really happened in the old Wild West. Still it indicates something that is substantial, but has no immediate empirical evidence. It is rather indicative of shared (collective) ways of making sense of history, that is, in Bazin’s term, universal myth. For the concept of myth, see Rosen pp. 60-62.