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Crime in Media
My Media Roundtable Project seeks to gather eight sources of mainstream forms of media. This will include films, music, and video games which are all popular in terms of sales and prevalence in American culture. I will then be analyzing the media to ascertain how crime is portrayed within it. My thesis is the idea that the forms of media which I gathered positively portray crime. By not showing the negative consequences that criminals can and will suffer, these forms of media leave viewers with an idea that crime can be fun and a good way to become successful.
Wolf of Wall Street
The first film I selected was Wolf of Wall Street, a crime film directed by Michael Scorsese released in 2013. It is a film based on the life of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker on Wall Street who was heavily involved in corruption and other illegal behavior. Belfort's criminal activity was eventually discovered by federal agents and he was prosecuted. This film however portrays Belfort as an infectious personality, and through his cunning and willingness to bend the rules, he lives a lavish, exciting lifestyle filled with drugs, women, money, and partying. Viewers of the film are meant to sympathize with Belfort. I can attest to the fact that many of my peers at Bentley University have posters of the Wolf of Wallet Street, and wish to emulate him largely because of this movie.
Another example of a film which appears to glorify crime is Ocean's Eleven. This movie tells the story of Danny Ocean, a thief played by George Clooney who recently was released from prison. Rather than seek a new, legal life path, Ocean decides to assemble a team and pull of another heist. While he does end up going to prison in the end, his team is successful, and after being released from prison again it is implied that Ocean goes on to live a successful life with his money.
Fast and Furious
The final film which I chose to represent the glorification of crime in film is Fast and Furious. This is a movie that has spurred an entire franchise that has grown to be Universal's biggest. In this movie a team of people in an illegal street racing circuit find success and evade police. Much like in the other films, the main characters, despite their criminal behavior, end up winning in the end. This film, like the others above, shows criminal behavior as something that is both exciting, and a valid path to success. Criminals are shown to be charming, sexy individuals that have infectious personalities. The victims of their crimes are not shown, and law enforcement is largely shown in a negative light. In the end, the criminals are successful, and escape with huge amounts of money after living a life of materialism, filled with sex, drugs, and excitement
CoCo - O.T. Genasis
Next, I moved on to examples of music that glorified criminal activity. One of the most plainly obvious was CoCo, performed by O.T. Genasis. This music video, which has about 216 million views, appears to portray the rapper making drugs while surrounded by thousands of dollars. The lyrics, which largely repeat "I'm in love with the coco," portray O.T. as a man who has accumulated a large amount of wealth through the drug trade, and as someone who will remorselessly kill anyone in his way. In this way, he is setting himself up to be a role model to others.
My Krazy Life
Next I selected an album by YG titled My Krazy Life. In this album, rapper YG largely raps about his history as a member of the bloods. Rather than writing this in a retrospective manner, discussing why he felt the need to join this gang and its negative consequences, he seems to gloat about this history. Furthermore, he avoids using the sound "c" in many instances such as on his song "Bicken Back Being Bool," as this is meant as an insult toward the rivaling crips. This album was met with great success, eventually going triple platinum.
Believe It - Meek Mill ft. Rick Ross
The final piece of music which I chose to illustrate my point is Believe It, performed by Meek Mill and Rick Ross. In this song they are playing off of slang where "white girl" is cocaine, and "white boy" is heroin. In this case they are rapping about how they have "Miley Cyrus" and "Justin Bieber" after which they say "please believe it." The lyrics themselves also feature the rappers bragging about their large wealth, and goods that they have been able to purchase with it. Furthermore, the video shows them partying with money, high-priced material objects, and beautiful women.
Overall, this music glorifies crime in a very blatant way. There is no discussion of the negative effects that crime has, or the consequences of being involved in it. Rather, it is shown as a valid path to accumulating wealth, prestige, and overall success. With rap being especially prevalent in some communities, and easily accessible to very young audiences, I do believe that this music could influence people to believe that this is a lifestyle to pursue
I also decided to select a couple video games which appear to glorify the criminal lifestyle. The first of these is Grand Theft Auto 5, a hugely popular gaming franchise that follows the story of criminals attempting to find success. In particular with this game, which I myself have played, it features a huge array of criminal activity. This can include street racing, pimping, murder, drug dealing, larceny, among many others. There are no negative consequences in the story line of these activities. In the end they pull off one final, huge heist that will allow them to retire. They then go on to live a life of luxury
The final piece of media that I selected is Mafia III, part of the successful Mafia franchise. Each game follows the story of a member of a particular mob, in this case the game follows a man involved in the black mob. Much like GTA 5, there is involvement in a huge amount of criminal activities, and the goal of the entire game is to spread the criminal empire as far as possible. Much like in GTA 5, the character ultimately finds success in the end of the story as a criminal.
Overall, it is clear by these forms of media that crime is glorified in some aspects of our society. This can range from the white-collar crime of Jordan Belfort, to the gang activity of YG. In this media, viewers are given a slanted perspective on the reality of the criminal lifestyle. It is portrayed that the criminal lifestyle allows for the ideals of American culture. You can be charming, sexy, have material goods and wealth, and at the end of the day, basically have everything you want.
In reality, criminal activity has negative consequences for the criminal. They have to live in the fear that they will be caught by law enforcement, if they and their family are not killed by a rival. Along with this, there are victims of the crimes themselves who are never properly shown in this media. While there are a multitude of factors involved, I do believe that people, especially children at young ages, can be influenced by this media to believe that the criminal lifestyle should be pursued. Please let me know your thoughts!