Crime, media & popular culture I: Crime films
Catharsis. Used to counter the argument that there is
too much violence in the media. Implies
that consuming violent media allows
viewers to release feelings of anger,
frustration or aggression in a vicarious
but safe manner.
Film noir. Highly stylised cinematic crime genre
usually characterised by a hard-boiled
cynicism and sexual motivations.
Narrative arc. The pattern of progression in a storyline
(beginning, middle, end).
Realism. Attempts to describe something as it is
without idealisation or romantic
Cultural criminology recap
For cultural criminologists, the true meaning of crime and crime control is to
be found not in the essential (and essentially false or distorted) factuality of
crime rates, but in the contested processes of symbolic display, cultural
interpretation, and representational negotiation.
Images of crime are becoming „as “real” as crime and criminal justice itself‟,
with mediated anticrime campaigns, visually constructed crime waves, and
media fabrications of counter-cultural imagery circulating in „an endless spiral
of meaning, a Mobius strip of culture and everyday life‟.
o Need to look at contested processes to get info on crime.
o Our ideas of crime and CJ are converted through representations e.g.
media articles, YouTube clips – as important as thinking about crime
and CJ itself.
Visually – media reporting, exaggerated things creating moral
panic, graphic images, etc.
Fabrications – images aren‟t static, most of our ideas are
discursive – they‟re negotiated and change depending on
context and interpretations.
o CC‟s not just concerned with images – more about considering our
mass mediated society.
o Analyse media representations:
Understanding images are part of the analysis – not just the
facts of the crime.
Cultural criminology at the movies
Insofar as cultural criminology is concerned with the multiple intersections
between crime, deviance, control and symbolic representation, then the study
of film would appear to be a necessary element of any such project.
o Branch of CC.
The moving image (hence the „movie‟) was the quintessential and dominant
cultural form of the 20 century. Since its inception, issues of crime, order, law, conflict, deviance and
punishment have figured centrally within the medium.
Researching films lags behind – because films are fictional, difficult to
distinguish between factual and fictional representations.
Academic Cultural/po Popular
Criminology pular Culture
of the dominant or alternative ideas of offending of that period.
Can see how people imagine and think about crime and in turn are shaped by
Academic crim – immersed in culture, draw on explanations they find out
there in culture in their own work.
Popular culture – media effects research (examine impact on violence), moral
CC sees them interrelated.
Different approaches/styles of analysis within CC:
o Counting criminological representations: the content analysis
Counting the frequency of key words/images appearing or
particular stories, victims, criminals, stereotypes and narratives
Less able to generalise about that research.
o In the shadow of Marx: crime films as ideology.
o Postmodern pluralism: the semiotic free-for-all in crime films.
o Yar posits an approach somewhere in-between Marxist claims about
crime films and postmodern claims – any given texts can carry
contesting / contradictory visions of crime and order.
Cultural criminology and doing film analysis
Crime films offer a popular culture resource for articulating, modelling and
critiquing theories about crime, crime causation, what motivates criminals,
what we should do about those criminals, etc.
o For thinking about crime in ways that you can‟t really play with an
Young calls for a particular engagement with „the cinematic nature of the
medium of film‟ …
“With cinema‟s unique harnessing of image, sound, affect, memory, plot,
episode, character, story and event”. What this means is that „film can be read for its narrative, in much the same
way as a novel, newspaper article, short story, or indeed, a case report.
The traditional view of law sees it as immune from influence from other
cultural forms such as novels and films.
Commonplace cultural narratives, genres, scenarios and characters have a
semantic life independent of the cases brought and heard before the law.
These “scripts and genres are prone to erupt within the courtroom as much as
in the cultural arena considered to be their proper place”.
The appeal of crime films:
o What accounts for the enduring popularity of the crime film?
o Generally, such movies focus on a criminal, a victim and an avenger.
o The interactions between these adversaries constitutes an exciting,