Criminality In Crime Film

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A preoccupation with crime and stories of criminality pervades society. Everyday, audiences are bombarded by print media, television news, Internet, video games and film with an overwhelming amount of depictions of crime - from murders and kidnappings to drug smuggling and financial fraud. Crime is thus inseparable from modern society. Our civilization is saturated with representations of criminality, a form of behavior, in sociological terms, that is in conflict with the moral codes and practices prescribed by society. Cinematic portrayals of crime have materially influenced the modern conceptions of criminality. People are simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by the criminal on screen. Watching crime has become a staple of our cultural diet, and this immersion in crime both supports and contradicts the dominant social perceptions of criminality. It is through genre codes and representational techniques of narrative and stereotypes that society manufactures notions of criminality.
Crime films have had an enduring presence since the beginning of filmmaking. Genres are fictional worlds but they do not remain within the bounds of fiction; instead their conventions crossover into critical and cultural discourse and can be seen as an alternative public sphere (Gates, 7). While the crime film genre has evolved over time, many of its thematic conventions have persisted (Todd, 2000). Allen et al (1998) define crime films as having the central focus of the narrative the commission and/or the investigation of a crime, with the protagonist either an offender or a professional working in the criminal justice system. A distinctive archetype of the crime or gangster film is the normalcy of criminal behavior and violence. Criminality is ...

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... onscreen. These conceptions are derived from popularized cinematic technique that is subconsciously digested by the masses. While media coverage, crime shows and other forms of virtual criminality provide entertainment, escape, and even learning opportunities, it also plays an enormous role in behavior and attitudes towards crime. Public knowledge and consumption of criminality influences what society fixates on – which in this case is fear, punitive measures and judicial efficacy. The relationship between what is viewed onscreen, how it is portrayed, and ultimately how the audience processes the images affects the conversations in which we engage and our perception of both criminality and the justice system. Therefore, it is imperative to engage critically with our consumption of not only media, but also with the ways in which the stories of criminality are told.

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