Crime, Media & Culture III: Organised Crime
Organised crime films
Crime films serve as a cultural resource, creating a reservoir of images and
stories on which viewers draw when they think about the causes of crime.
Many crime films also endorse a particular explanation of crime as well as
offer an opinion as to who is best qualified to give that explanation.
o Development of the role of the expert e.g. the detective.
o The expert developed in to the role of the forensic psychologist.
Movies and their explanations for crime and criminality
Most offer one of three explanations of what motivates people to commit
o Born bad – biological theories of crime.
Criminality determined when young.
E.g. Frankenstein (1931), The Bad Seed (1956) – Criminality
passed down from mother to daughter.
o Made bad – environmental theories of crime.
Something happens that makes them turn out that way.
E.g. Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990) -
o Twisted psyches – abnormal psychology as a cause of crime.
Mental illness causing criminal behaviour.
E.g. Psycho (1960) – protagonist lacks moral compass.
Movies, crime and ideology
Work on an ideological level, feeding our assumptions/beliefs about crime and
Crime is „explainable‟.
o Message in all these films.
That certain individuals with authority and expertise are capable of figuring
out both the causes and solutions to crime.
o E.g. police, forensic psychologist.
o Possible to think like a killer or that we can see the signs of the
criminality in the environment.
Offer definitions of the “crime problem” through a distorted emphasis on
violence and death.
Provide a repertoire of plausible narratives that audiences draw on to frame
their emotional responses to criminal events.
o Tells us how to feel in