Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Society's Impact on Early Gangster Films

           This course is the first film course I have ever taken. Before taking the film communications class, I absolutely no idea as to what went on in making a film. I never thought about the underlying meanings that writers and directors put into their films. For instance, how writers and directors put in cultural, social, and political aspects that are occurring when the film is being made.  One reason the gangster film gained popularity was due to the Prohibition Era in the United States. Films about organized crime during this time in our country’s history, made the gangster genre gain popularity through social, cultural, and political events.
            It was not until the sound era and the 1930s that gangster films truly became entertaining and a popular way to attract viewers to the theatres. The events of the Prohibition Era such as bootlegging and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the existence of real-life gangsters, and the rise of organized crime helped to encourage this genre. Many plots of early gangster films were taken right out of the headlines from the newspaper. Crimes such as bootlegging and gambling brought these real-life gangsters to a hero status among the public. The American public, at the time, was very displeased with the government. The public blamed the government for the poor status of the country at the time and they would cheer on the gangsters in films as they would elude the police and fight against the law. The public liked the gangsters portrayed on the big screen. They enjoyed how the gangster flaunted and cruel, tough, and law-defying lifestyle.
The rise in popularity for gangster films brought in government attention. The coming of the Hays Production Code helped put and end to the glorification of gangsters and approving the violent ways of the gangster lifestyle. The Hays Production Code wanted to put a censorship on the gangster. The code wanted studios to present the gangster as a psychopath and stop depicting them as heroes. They wanted the studios to show that this lifestyle was morally wrong and that crime did not pay. One way that studios did this was making films that made the cop look like a gangster. They would portray cops as ruthless and violent as the gangster. Another way the code was enforced was how studios would show the consequences that the gangster would face for his violent ways. Either way, the Hays Production Code did not put an end to this genre. It would live on eighty more years to films that are being made today.

Binggeli, E. (2009). Worse than bad: Sanctuary, the hays office and the genre of abjection. Arizona quarterly: A journal of american literature, culture, and theory , 65 (3), 87-116.

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