Monday, February 2, 2009

Cool Criminality Corrupting City Life?

Sex, lies and violence sells. This must be the mindset of the film industry, because lately every movie I see has an abundance of one or each. Worshipping the criminal isn’t a new fad, however. The movie “The Public Enemy” showcased the life of a mob man, a lifestyle full of sex, lies and violence. 

Although the movie establishes its goal as being “to honestly depict an environment that exists today in a certain strata of American life, rather than to glorify the hoodlum or the criminal,” it seemed to me that they did exactly the opposite. The way the film is shot, every scene encourages the lifestyle of the mob. Humor is thrown here and there, like when mobsters push a baby stroller full of alcohol down the streets or throw the flowers out of a flower truck to make room for multiple kegs. Even the swagger of James Cagney is mesmerizing and does little to deter the audience’s attraction to the mob lifestyle he leads.

 Because film often glorifies the criminal life, reality is beginning to reflect that admiration. Normally people would not react with awe to the story of an inner city drug dealer being shot 9 times. In fact, most would think, “He had it coming,” especially considering his surroundings and choice of profession. But give said drug dealer a publicist, a contract, and the liberty to make catchy beats full of curse words and sexually explicit lyrics, and you have a hero. I give you: 50 Cent.

However, the life of crime does not always end in success. The prominence of violence in movies, music, and video games does not reflect well into society. Lately, crime rates in cities have been on the rise. Thankfully, Arkansas’ crime rates have fallen slightly since the 1990s. Still, crime is always present. The city of Little Rock just reported its 8th homicide in the month of January. I don’t know about anyone else, but the criminal life is only interesting (in a rebellious sort of way) until it gets that close to the place I live.

The criminal lifestyle has slowly become intertwined with that of the thug. We expect rappers to live a life of luxury, full of dollar bills, expensive cars, and beautiful women. For us ladies, the option of being provided with whatever our hearts desire is nothing less than intriguing. However, criminality should not be worshipped. Even though Cagney’s character in “The Public Enemy” lived a life a luxury, his life ended prematurely in the hands of yet another criminal.

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  1. You took an interesting approach to this, Anna, and I'd like to focus on your excellent phrase - "Worshiping the criminal isn't a new fad." You're absolutely right, and it was astute of you to point out that it is indeed the worship of the criminal life, but why do we do it? Is it because we really like the idea of having whatever we want, no matter what the price? Is it having the power to order people around? Is it the feeling of holding someone's life in your hands?

    What do you think it says about people that they so desperately want to admire this type of living?

  2. I think that people who want to admire this type of living obviously have something missing in their life. To pine after a life where everything is given to you, no matter what the cost, could mean that you have been denied such things. If you aren't completely happy with what you have, you are always going to want more. That's the problem with greed.