Friday, 24 April 2009

Bandits and outlaws

Everyone remembers Smokey and the Bandit, I'm only 27, so its not that old, and also Robin Hood. The list is endless, and famous on screen fictional bandits and outlaws are loved by people the world round.
The question in class was 'why is there a tendency to brand bandits, criminals, and outlaws as decent and honourable?

I've been told that there is something romantic about people who supposedly steal from the rich and give to the poor, but the number who of real bandits who actually did this must be very few, if any, as most did it to line their own pockets and not help the needy.
Being a man, i don't see it in that way. When i was a kid Smokey and the Bandit was cool, giving the police the run-around, saving nice young ladies from ruthless cattle rustlers. There is always something in these kind of fictional characters that appeals to kids.
However, for the average person, i think its a kind of admiration for these people because they have the guts to do what most people wouldn't. Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor pulls at most peoples heart strings, and doing this kind of thing has made a lot of these 'bad' characters folk heroes. I think most poor people have a lot in common with Robin Hood, such as being oppressed by the mega rich local land lord, and this leads people to identify and look up to what the upper class would label as bad.
Their care free lifestyle appeals to most people, even today. Who wouldn't want to drive around the country, rob a few rich and ruthless people, give some to the poor, and still be liked and admired at the end of the day? In the case of Smokey and the Bandit, the actors were made to be like able, normal looking, average people that the normal person on the street could identify with. They were funny, handsome (for the women), rescued nice young damsels in distress (for the men), drove nice, fast cars, and had an enjoyable, care free life. They also made the police look like bumbling idiots, which is what most people these days think the police are anyway. This kind of admiration is the same for the real bandits and outlaws who's memory lives on even today, which is hundreds of years after some of them existed.

Bonnie and Clyde appealed to everyone at the time of the Great Depression. People could identify with them because at the time every one was suffering hardship. The fact that they were shot to death by the police has added to their modern day status and made them into a kind of martyr.
Unfortunately, Smokey and the Bandit was very different from Bonnie and Clyde and other real bandits and outlaws. Its easy to forget that these people were murderers who killed anyone who got in their way, they were hardly, in real life, nice normal people. People still identify with them in a kind of folk hero way, but that doesn't make them any nicer in real life.
The Kray twins were ruthless gangland killers, but people tend to forget this because they were known for helping the poor through hard times. People turned a blind eye to what they really got up to, or were simply too scared to speak up. Ronnie Kray was a crazed, psychotic murderer who spent all of his adult life in Broadmore mental hospital. just before Reggie Kray died of cancer they showed him in the paper as old and withered, but the monster was still inside. The families of the victims whose bodies were never found could not have a funeral because the Krays took their secrets to the grace with them. They were hardly nice people.
The same goes for Jesse James, who killed at least one person on all of his robberies. The films made about these people turn them into folk heroes and tend to leave out most of the gruesome bits. Even the killing portrayed in the Krays films were tame compared to what the twins really did to people and how they really tortured their victims with hot irons, boiling water, electricity and stanley blades.

The point is that bandits, criminals and outlaws maybe portrayed as normal, everyday people, but in fact the majority were deplorable, evil, ruthless murderers, torturers and criminals who would have killed (and did) anybody who got in their way, be they poor or rich. They stole and killed for themselves, not for the poor.

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