Public enemies. We’re creating them
Hollywood Director Michael Mann probably never dreamed he would grow up and inspire movie-goers around the world to knock over a few banks with their mates.
But seriously, I’m positive anyone who’s seen the latest Mann spectacular, Public Enemies, walked away thinking how cool they’d look robbing a bank with a band of Johnny Depp looking outlaws.
In its first weekend at Aussie cinemas Public Enemies pulled in $3,151,046, knocking the latest wand-swishing Harry Potter installment from its number one spot.
The movie chronicles the life and crimes of John Dillinger, a notorious bank robber in 1930s Midwestern America. It’s great viewing and is definitely worth the hyper-inflated $17 admission ticket (seriously when did movies become so expensive?).
But while I clearly loved it, I think there’s a more sinister side we overlook with films like these. The glorifying of criminals and romanticising of crime.
Its a sure-fire way to bake a blockbuster, mix sex, drugs, money, guns and crime, in no particular order and the dough will roll on in.
On and off-screen John Dillinger was a dangerous criminal. He was personally responsible for the murder of several police officers, robbed at least two dozen banks, four police stations, and escaped from jail twice.
And, no, I haven’t ruined the plot. But, that said I didn’t spend one minute of the 2 hour 20 minute flick thinking bad things about John Dillinger.
In fact I actually left the movie thinking “wow – that bloke was really smart”. He was public enemy number one, and for the most part, he got away with it.
Public Enemies isn’t the first and it won’t be the last movie glamorising gun-toting real-crime.
Cocaine Cowboys, Ned Kelly, Chopper, Goodfellas, American Gangster heck even Channel 9’s network-saving series Underbelly, have all graced our screens and given us an insight into what it’s really like to be a crook.
Whilst many of these portrayals are highly accurate, they by no means depict the whole tale. A lot of us realise this. A rational person would walk away from movies or series like these and not contemplate a life in crime, but much to my frustration not everyone is rational. Not everyone realises these are just stories and there is a lot more collateral damage involved in the real thing.
Cocaine Cowboys 2, which I also watched last week (it was a bloody week for me), tells the story of Griselda Blanco. She was “The Godmother” of the cocaine trade in Miami in the 70s and 80s.
Blanco trafficked billions of dollars worth of cocaine into the US from Columbia. She played a direct role in more than 200 murders and at the time of her imprisonment was worth more than $US80 billion. The “cocaine wars” in Miami during her tenure were the bloodiest in US history.
Charles Cosby, an African American teen in the late 80s learned about Griselda Blanco’s story and wrote her a letter whilst she was in prison. She wrote back, mentored him, gave him contacts and he became a massively successful drug dealer in the 90s.
Who knows if Cosby was on the right path to begin with, either way Blanco’s story was made public, she was glorified, she became an icon and he modelled his future on her story.
And despite the fact she was one of the most dangerous people and had absolutely no qualms in killing anyone who got in her way – I actually somewhat admire her.
She built herself up from nothing. She went from a slum-kid-prostitute in Columbia to living a high-roller life of luxury, murdering hundreds and being worth more than $US80 billion.
She was released from prison in 2004 and is essentially now a free woman.
Me, I’m left thinking about chickens and eggs.
Are the acts of Blanco and Dillinger truly remarkable they deserve to be in the public spotlight? Or do criminals like Blanco and Dillinger commit such crimes because we glamorise those before them?
Why do we put them on a pedestal? Is it because they defy the rules? Is because they stand aside from the rest of us and simply do whatever it is they want?
In the end we all know how the movie ends.
The good guys will get the bad guys, they’ll shoot ‘em dead, lock ‘em up, throw away the key and hopefully make the world a safer place.
But we’re all left with their stories, they all leave their mark and I’m just not sure casting drool-worthy Johnny Depp as one of them is such a good thing.
Personally I can’t wait to see the movie about Bernie Madoff - now that’s a crime worth glamorising.
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