Why Has Audience Positioning Towards Gangster Films and Their Main Characters Changed Throughout the Evolution of Film?

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  • Topic: The Godfather, Crime film, Mob film
  • Pages : 6 (2371 words )
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  • Published : April 20, 2013
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“Why has audience positioning towards Gangster films and their main characters Changed throughout the evolution of film?” “The crime film is the most enduringly popular of all Hollywood genres, the only kind of film that has never once been out of fashion since the dawn of the sound era seventy years ago.”-Thomas Leitch The central theme of the gangster film has always revolved around law and order and essentially boils down to the Criminal institutions fighting one another or fighting a corrupt authority. Movies such as ‘The Godfather’, ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Public enemies’ follow the same plot of organised crime. That is what the films are about, seeing as though the central characters operate under their own premise of law, the narratives involve their relationship with the authorities and agencies of law enforcement while the plots are usually structured around the process by which they are brought to justice. But throughout the evolution of the gangster genre is a central argument reflecting a fundamental difference in audience stance towards the gangster hero. This plays on an Active audience theory as the audience take in the information they are given and pick sides. The contrast of audience opinion is displayed in a variety of different ways. In the film The Godfather, Sterling Hayden (Captain McCluskey) is the official figure, he is quickly revealed to be very brutal and corrupt, being a key person on the Tattaglia's payroll. When some enforcers of the Corleone family protect Don Vito Corleone, McCluskey has them taken away. Michael arrives soon after and realizes this. Soon after, while Michael is guarding the entrance of the hospital with Enzo the baker, McCluskey and his guys drive up and harrass the two, ordering that they be taken in. When the officer refuses, McCluskey hits Michael across the face, badly bruising his face and breaking his jaw. Gangster movies frequently demonstrate that society’s official institutions are as corrupt as the criminals they oppose (politicians in The Untouchables, multi-national corporations in Scarface.) this positions the audience on the side of the gangsters in the film and against the authoritative figure. Gangster films dictate audience positioning by setting the Gangsters in the role of the hero in Propp’s Character theory and the official figures as the villains, an example of this being used is. “The dynamic of every crime film focuses on the relationship between three sets of characters: the perpetrator, the victim and the avenger, but typically gangster narratives seek to undermine and blur the boundaries between the typological figures.”-Thomas Leitch. This quote from Thomas Leicht perfectly illustrates how the narratives of Gangster movies dictate audience positioning by “blurring the boundaries” between the institutions of the characters. A dominant and largely widespread basis on which Hollywood’s depiction of the underworld is fabricated is the domineering moral view that crime does not pay this may have resulted from early fears of audience reception through out-dated theories such as the hypodermic needle theory in which producers and political figures feared that an audience seeing a life of crime pay would be tempted to stray into the life of organised crime. An example of an early gangster film that shows a ‘Crime doesn’t pay’ attitude is Little Caesar 1931. The main charecters, Caesar Enrico "Rico" Bandello and Joe Massara follow different paths with Rico following a life of crime and Joe, against Rico’s persuasion, follows a life without crime. Ultimately Joe lives the better life with Rico ending up dead and alone. Modern films such as ‘Lawless’2012 follow a the opposite narrative with crime paying out at the end of the film with the three Bondurant brothers-Forrest, Howard and Jack ultimately beating a corrupt authority and saving their money from their bootlegging and settling down to family life although the film still shows that maybe the payoff of crime...
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