Mediaand Pop-Culture: Crime Does Not Pay
The media and popular culture have influenced the lives of the youngadults in different ways over time. Ferguson asserts that music,information and other entertainment platforms influence peopledifferently, positively and negatively, or both (4). One of thelargely influenced area in lives is public relations and the peopleperceive issues over time. For instance, the American conception of agangster is slowly changing, given the influence of televisionprograms such as Wolf of Wall Street and Breaking Bad.Rieber and Kelly reveal that these productions show the moderngangsters as very different from the traditional ones, the formerbeing educated and fitting well in the society (271). However, thisportrayal has not changed the message that crime does not pay. Theseproductions have shown most gangsters’ fate as ending up eitherkilled or locked up in jail. The message that the producers arepassing is that indeed crime does not pay and it should be avoided.Therefore, the metamorphosis of the gangster and their lifestyle onscreen over time has not diluted the core message that crime does notpay.
The problem, as Warshow puts it, is the mannerin which America, as a social and political organizations, is verycommitted to a cheerful view of life (430). Warshow states:
‘The sense of tragedy is a luxury ofaristocratic societies where the fate if the individual is notconceived of as having a direct and legitimate political importance,being determined by a fixed and supra-political, that is,non-controversial moral order or fate,’ (430-431).
The media and popular culture consequentlyinfluence these organizations. The modern gangsters as portrayed inthe media, have a considerable amount of influence on their audience,who find their “cheerful lives” interesting. The affected groupsare the teenagers and the young adults, who are the most activeviewers of television. In the modern times, children and young adultsare spending more hours watching television and film than before(Rieber and Kelly 169). This is because of the improved quality ofproductions and better story telling techniques that have beendeveloped by the producers and directors of these television programsand films. The gangster movies that were shown back in time hadpredictable storylines and plots, which made them less interesting,however, with increased criticism, producers nowadays have introducedbetter storylines and plot twists, which make the themes moreinteresting. For instance, a film in the past would portray gangstersas bank robbers or train robbers who would attack, use force and getaway with the loot (Anastacia and Macnow 125 Fisher and Salmon 104).However, today’s gangsters are clever individuals, who use brainsrather than muscle to get money. This makes them admirable to theviewers, who find them to be better criminals than the conventionalscreen-criminals they were used to.
Oneof the best depictions of the modern American gangsters is Mr. WalterWhite from AMC’s Breaking Bad. Mr.White, a responsible father of two, is diagnosed with cancer and isgiven two years to live by his doctor. He feels that what he earnsfrom his job as a high school teacher will not be enough to sustainhis family once he is gone. He soon finds and opportunity to make andsell methamphetamine, and immediately takes it. He ‘breaks bad’from being a kind and loving family man to being a ruthless gangster,who kills whoever gets in his way. The television program’s biggestfans, the youth, find the actions of Mr. White to be very clever,thus worth emulating. It is only in the closing scenes that most findMr. White’s actions to be not worth following, when his familyfalls apart and he is killed. TheWolf of Wall Street is based on thetrue story of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who cleverly maneuvers tobeing a top trader in the Wall Street, living a high life of crime,corruption and many other crimes. This film also attract many youthswho find the main character’s life to be interesting and worthemulating.
Dahl andDellaVigna say that crime movies have two impacts on the viewers(685). There is a direct effect and an indirect effect. According tothem, there are two theories that can be used to explain the directimpact of violent movies, which occurs immediately after exposure.The first theory is how the violence depicted by the gangsters in themedia triggers actions of crime. This is either by arousing theaudience or imitation of character. The second theory is that thereis an eventual increase in aggression as the audience continues towatch these movies. As explained by Dahl and DellaVigna, the secondtheory can be used to explain the tendency of youths engaging incrime to meet and watch these programs, to learn bettercrime-committing tactics from their television heroes. This meansthat the message that crime does not pay is not passed effectively tothe viewers. These viewers think that the modern criminals are worthemulating, than the previous ones, hence finding themselves engagingin crime, albeit in a different manner.
Venanzi narrowsthe evaluation of the influence of media and popular culture to thescope of one of the most growing trend observed in U.S schools,shootings (261). Almost similar to Dahl and DellaVigna’s arguments,the widespread argument that media content is to blame for the deadlyviolence amongst the youths. It is understood that this behavior isbecause of a series of interrelated social, cultural and politicalprocesses. The portrayal of criminals in the films influences theculture and beliefs amongst the youth. Those who take up arms aregreatly influenced by the modern criminals that are portrayed in themovies, and Venanzi argues that there is an urge to emphasize thoseschools are defining and managing problems of discipline that areposed through a prism of crime control.
The manner and extent to which the media and popular culture affectsthe youth has been discussed by many authors and psychologists. Whileusing violent crime movies such as Breaking Bad to researchthe effects on crime, Dahl and DellaVigna find that these moviesdirectly affect the levels of crime in the United States (680). Onthe days when such movies are being aired, the levels of crime arelowered significantly. This means that the youths who commit thesecrimes get attracted to watching these movies, which means that theydefinitely influence their lives. Additionally, the fact that theexposure to violent movies in the morning is small, and that crimeduring this time is low, means that these movies are a kind ofinfluential instruments the behavior of the youths. Through theportrayal of the modern gangsters in the media, the message thatcrime does not pay has not been diluted.
This paper has shown that there is an impact on lives by the mediaand pop culture. Many young people have taken after the behavior oftheir favorite characters in films, modern gangsters whose lives andbehavior is fun to emulate. However, despite the attractiveness ofthese modern gangsters, many young people still get the lesson thatcrime does not pay. It is therefore advisable for the producers toregulate the content of their shows and uphold the message that crimedoes not pay, regardless of the rating or criticism their contentreceives. Another way of positively influencing the youths by mediaand pop culture is including appropriate advisories and viewerdiscretion messages the films begin and implementing the viewer agelimits. This way, the message can be passed to the correct viewers ina correct manner.
Anastacia, George., and Glen Macnow. The Ultimate Book of GangsterMovies.Featuring the 100 Greatest Gangster Films of AllTime.Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 2011. Print.
Dahl, Gordon and Stefano DellaVigna. Does Movie Violence IncreaseViolent Crime? The
Ferguson, Christopher J. "Introduction: Crime and the Media."Adolescents, Crime, and the Media.Springer New York, 2013.3-16.
Fisher, Maryanne L., and Catherine Salmon. "Human nature and popculture." Review of General Psychology 16.2 (2012): 104.
QuarterlyJournal of Economics (2009) 124 (2): 677-734.
Rieber, Robert W., and Robert J. Kelly. "Media and FilmInfluences on Popular Culture."Film, Television and thePsychology of the Social Dream.Springer New York, 2014.143-163.
Venanzi, Augusto. School shootings in the USA: Popular culture asrisk, teen marginality, and
violence against peers. Crime Media Culture 8(3) 261 –278.
Warshow, Robert. The Gangster as Tragic Hero. “Classic andContemporary Essays: Why are we Fascinated by Bad Men in popularCulture”. 430-434.