December 20, 2012

Murder and Media: Bonnie and Clyde and "Bonnie and Clyde"

Noah Millman is appalled that Pat Buchanan implies that back in the good old days, respectable society didn't celebrate criminals, and cites Bonnie and Clyde as an obvious counter-example. 

But the cultural history of Bonnie and Clyde supports Pat's memory. From roughly 1935 to 1965, crime rates were low (the red line above is the per capita homicide rate with the 1950s set as 100). In the exact same time, American elites tried hard to render actual criminals uninteresting and media glorification of criminals not respectable. As I said yesterday, Bill James reports on a newspaper barons' gentleman's agreement after the Lindbergh's Baby trial of early 1935 to cut back on tabloid coverage of crime. Similarly, the Hays Code the movie industry imposed upon itself in the early 1930s  insisted that criminals be portrayed in a disapproving manner.

Bonnie and Clyde (who died violently in 1934) were part of a wave of criminals of the late Prohibition / early Depression era that were given huge news coverage and a fair amount of romantic outlaw spin (John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, etc.). That era rapidly closed down around 1935, and with it homicide rates.

Which one is cause and which one is effect? Hard to say, but I can't dismiss out of hand the notion that the elite culture's bias in 1935-1965 against promoting criminals as big deals didn't take the wind out of the sails of various low-lifes who might have acted upon their desires for notoriety in other eras when the publicity machinery was more favorable.

In 1967, Arthur Penn's movie "Bonnie and Clyde" became a huge story and a big box office hit. In the histories of cinema written by the victors, it's portrayed as a morality tale in which the cool new critics (e.g., Pauline Kael) triumphed over the stick-in-the-mud old critics (e.g., Bosley Crowther). 

Crowther had been the chief movie reviewer of the New York Times for 27 years and was the champion voice of serious liberal uplift and respectability. To him, movies shouldn't glamorize two-bit moron criminals like Bonnie and Clyde. He just didn't get that in the new elite culture of the later 1960s, criminals were cool. From Wikipedia:
... the most dogged critic of the film was Bosley Crowther, who wrote three negative reviews, as well as periodically blasting the movie in reviews of other films, and also in a letters column response to unhappy Times readers. The New York Times replaced Crowther as its primary film critic in early 1968, and it was widely speculated that his persistent attacks on Bonnie and Clyde had shown him to be out of touch with current cinema, and weighed heavily in his removal.

I never saw "Bonnie and Clyde" until 1990, at which point it was hard to see what all the hub-bub had been about. From the perspective of 1990, it just looked like a glamorous Hollywood movie of recent years, distinguished mostly by having a ton of Hollywood star power (besides Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the title roles, it featured then-little known future stars Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder).

Here's the 2009 essay by Stephen Hunter that makes most of my points better than I could.

71 comments:

Anonymous said...

But it's a good thing Bosley had to go. His writing was uninspired, his opinions often trivial and silly(one of his complaints about Seven Samurai was that it has too many low level shots of horses, making him wonder if horses had heads or not), and he had no flair for the cinematic art.
Crowther called 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' 'brilliant', and Dwight MacDonald remarked 'brilliant' is the last word he would use to describe that movie; and Macdonald was right. Brit Kitchen Sink movies had some power and bitter/angry kind of earnestness but they were not brilliant.

Incidentally, Crowther came around to praising Bonnie and Clyde. He included it in his book 50 Memorable Films. Libraries used to carry it back in the days, but Crowther books are nowhere today.

http://letterboxd.com/alexfung/list/bosley-crowthers-50-memorable-films/

Crowther did some good in the 50s by championing European films, but he never understood the art of film. He was more of a 'save the world' do-goody liberal than a person with a natural flair and knack for the arts. And though he wasn't corrupt, he did wield too much power. The fate of a lot of movies--especially small ones--depended on whether he liked it or not.

AllanF said...

News media vs. Hollywood? Splitting hairs, two sides of the same coin, or apples and oranges.

Roger Ebert, not surprisingly chose to split the hair.

To be exhaustive, we'd have to add Silicon Valley (video games) and Big Pharma (SSRI's, Ritalin, Prozac, etc).

As Kissinger might say, pity they all can't lose.

Anonymous said...

Bonnie and Clyde may not seem as powerful today because it had a huge impact on popular culture. It certainly influenced The Wild Bunch, with Peckinpah taking it up another notch.
Penn's use of violence was among the most remarkable and harrowing. His film was perhaps the first 'modern action film', the first real breakout from old Hollywood mold. People didn't just get shot and drop. They got splattered in blood. And the gunfire sounded nastier. When Bonnie gets shot on the arm, you can feel the pain.

The bloodletting is both horrific and thrilling. Penn understood both the appeal and the appalling nature of violence. Especially gruesome is when Hackman and his wife are cornered and gunned down. Her getting it in the eye, his dazed rolling on the ground, that's powerful stuff.

The film fails for me on two counts:

1. It tries to make a 'statement' when, in fact, the killer duo were nothing but scum.
In the Wild Bunch, we see how the bandits mistakenly come to be regarded as heroes by Mexican peasants. We understand how facts can be spun into fiction. Problem with Bonnie and Clyde is it begins as a warning about the danger of myths but then swallows its own myth. Initially, we are shown how Bonnie and Clyde, two sad loners, try to gain fame and fortune by treating crime like Hollywood romance and thrills. But in the end, we are made to believe that they are indeed two glorious martyrs of love and truth.
Penn ruined Little Big Man in the same way. It wonderfully begins on a note of irony--and the book is gloriously absurd throughout--but eventually everything is reduced to a trite 'statement' about the evil white man and Vietnam.

2. With pretty Beatty and Dunaway as leads, the movie boils down to pretty vs ugly, and of course given the logic of cinema, we side with the immoral beauty.

Like The Graduate and Sgt Pepper, the film became a defining 'event' of the Zeitgeist.

Anyway, it's still far superior to most crime or violent films that's been released in the past two decades. Penn was of the generation that knew something other than movies. He wasn't like Tarantino the couchpotato know-and-care-about-nothing-but-movies idiot(which is sad because Reservoir Dogs is a genuinely great movie).
In more recent yrs, which director still had the ability to film violence with a difference? I think of Walter Hill with Wild Bill, Spielberg with Saving Private Ryan, and the guy who made Assassination of Jesse James. McTiernan with 13th Warrior. But most movie violence is video-gameish(LOTR and AVATAR), vile and ugly(horror), or numb and hipsterish(Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and countless Tarantino ripoffs).

Best corrective to Bonnie and Clyde is In Cold Blood.

(The rightwing had its own Bonnie and Clyde with Dirty Harry, the Passion of the Police.)

Anonymous said...

In 1968 this film was given a free showing on the campus of Northwestern University followed by a speech by Jack Valenti. I couldn't figure out why. Now I know. Jack was pimping.

Anonymous said...

This is the reason why, stylistic brilliance aside, I never responded to A Clockwork Orange. For all the film's hand-wringing about taking away the free will of a sociopathic rapist, there's nothing wrong with Alec that couldn't be solved by a long prison sentence or a bullet in the back of the head.

Education Realist said...

In The Heat of the Night won the Oscar over B&C and The Graduate, and for many years was cited as the kind of "out of touch" win that the Oscars were known for. But these days, the Oscar winner holds up far better than the other two films, which are firmly dogged as 60s flicks. B&C was hugely influential, I agree.

Anonymous said...

The scene that really makes me angry in B&C is the one where the criminals harass the sheriff. That's when the film just drops the irony and goes into statement mode. Yeah, just blame it all on them southern lawmen.

And even though Cool Hand Luke is one of my fav movies, I'm not sure Luke is such a hero either. Given all the stunts he pulled, I can understand why the southern lawmen done what they did.

And then, there was Easy Rider where the bad guys are good ole bad ole southern boys again.
And the remake of Straw Dogs has southern white guys raping a white woman.
And Deliverance had southern good ole bad ole boys in the woods buggering southern good ole boy from the city.
Deliverance is a great movie though, and convincing on its own terms.

The foulest use of B&C-ism is in Thelma and Louise where the two bimbos torment a state trooper who was doing his job. He's locked in a car trunk under a hot blazing sun, and that is supposed to be funny!
Then a negro comes out of nowhere and blows pot smoke into the hole, and more hilarity!!
Never mind the copper was doing his duty. He can be tortured and tormented by two hos and a negro because 'white males are evil'.
That is the sick legacy of B&C. But while T&L is a terrible movie, B&C is undoubtedly one of the most powerfully made crime films ever. It incorporated the spirit of the French New Wave into the newly souped up engine of Hollywood that was undergoing profound changes.
Francois Truffaut had originally been approached to direct, and I wonder how that version might have turned out. But then, Truffaut wasn't into violence, and his handling of violence in Bride Wore Black was rather lackluster. And the violence in Shoot the Piano Player was mostly in comic and poetic mode. B&C is more in tune with the nastiness of Godard's Breathless.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised the movie hasn't been re-released under the new title of "Bernardine and Bill."

Anonymous said...

The homicide rate in the 20's and 30's is about what it wa between 1975 and 1975 and 1995. Interesting. Some people make it sound like nobody murdered anybody back then.
I would like to see murder rates in 1800, 1890 etc.

Most of the increase in murders in 75 had to do with gangs and drugs probably,just like it was in the late 20's and early 30's except that was alcohol.



jody said...

one of the few issues which conservatives have resoundingly won over the liberals. violent crime.

lock up the criminals and keep them locked up. more police, better police work. allow qualified citizens to carry concealed handguns. more handguns out there than ever, but violent crime is lower.

there is some slippage. thanks to liberals, and lawyers (often the same but certainly not always), it's almost impossible to execute the bad guys now.

nidal malik hasan continues to draw breath, and will live to see 2013. why? this is 3 years longer than his heart deserves to beat.

it is about billable hours for the lawyers? is this why every case and every lawsuit is now dragged out to the nth degree (except when obama WANTS to kill you, then there's no due process, he just orders you dead).

one wonders what possible reason there could be for not killing an openly declared enemy of the united states, and instead, not only paying to keep him alive, but to continue paying him his previous military salary. every sunrise he sees is a victory for hostile islam and more proof that the US is weaker now, and can be attacked sometimes without it responding.

perhaps not expounded upon much is the great irony of the liberal agenda and it's agents in the media. extreme hostility to real world guns, but widespread promotion of violent, gun filled movies and television shows. it is akin to their extreme promotion of homosexuality, but the utter lack of open man on man sex in these same movies and shows. promote one thing vigrously, but do the exact opposite in your self created entertainment.

Randall Van Der Sterren said...

I'm having trouble thinking of Pauline Kael as "hip" and "new."

Anonymous said...

"one of the few issues which conservatives have resoundingly won over the liberals. violent crime."

but libs came to own the issue with Clinton's 'new liberalism' and NYers support of Giuliani.

similarly, libs came to own free trade.

Anonymous said...

"I'm having trouble thinking of Pauline Kael as "hip" and "new.""

Well, it depends on whom you compare her with. Compared to many mainstream critics back then, she was 'hip and new'. And she certainly had a fresh way of looking at movies in the 60s. Compare her movie writings of the 60s with those of most others, and it becomes clear why she became famous.

But there was more to her appeal than 'hip and new'.

She was middle aged in the 60s and in many respects, rather bourgeois.
She looked like a harmless old lady but said stuff that sounded half-radical.
She was not just some movie junkie who only knew movies and pop culture. She was very well-read--and she said books were her main passion--, and she had a very deep and broad knowledge of the arts. She was an intellectual who wrote in the vernacular and understood the magic of pop culture for what it was. So, many young or less intellectual people who felt certain vibes about the times but didn't know to articulate them found their spokesman in Kael.
Like Dylan took folk/popular music and elevated it into a personal artform, Kael elevated movie reviewing into a kind of populist artform. Prior to Kael, there was film criticism as something serious/elitist and film reviewing as something populist/consumerist. She bridged the gap. She was 'bringing it all back home'. Rand did the same for capitalism. She served as the voice that bridged elitism/intellectualism with populist passions.

She was also contrarian. She championed European cinema over Hollywood but also excoriated cinephiles who were slavishly reverent toward 'foreign films' and had a kneejerk disdain for Hollywood movies.
She pushed for a new kind of cinema that would combine the personal vision of European cinema with populism of Hollywood... and she finally discovered heaven with The Godfather. It was both very American and very European in the best sense--at least in her mind. Coppola was a personal director but in tune with the pulse of the moviegoing masses.

So, there was double-appeal to her, both populist and elitist. Her reviews were conversational in tone, as if she was talking to you as a friend. But she also wrote terrifically well and had a very broad knowledge of history and the arts. You could get both High and Low from her.

Anonymous said...

"This is the reason why, stylistic brilliance aside, I never responded to A Clockwork Orange. For all the film's hand-wringing about taking away the free will of a sociopathic rapist, there's nothing wrong with Alec that couldn't be solved by a long prison sentence or a bullet in the back of the head."

I think Kubrick would have agreed.
The 'free will' argument that is central to the novel becomes pointless in the movie as the reverend in the prison is lampooned like everyone else.
For Burgess, the point was crucial to the theme of the book.
To Kubrick, it was just one more horseshit among many others.

Kubrick wasn't against locking someone like Alex up in prison and throwing away the key. And I don't know if he supported or opposed the death penalty.
But the movie is about making choices within the 'moral' framework of what is or isn't allowed in modern society. Since we cannot lock up young thugs forever and throw away the key or just shoot them in the back of the head, what is to be done with them?
There is no good answer.

The question is less problematic in Cuckoos Nest because, as nutty as McMurphy is, there is a level of decency in him. This cannot be said of Alex. It's a very dark ending. Alex is free again but free to do what?

Anonymous said...

He just didn't get that in the new elite culture of the later 1960s, criminals were cool.


All part of the New Left's celebration of minority groups and the condemnation of the majority.

hbd chick said...

"...various low-lifes who might have acted upon their desires for notoriety in other eras when the publicity machinery was more favorable."

now the low-lifes can promote themselves on "gangsta-tube" (or whatever the h*ll they're called) sites. =/

BOO said...

Man, Steve, you really are trying to sell this spree shooting problem as a media problem.

The fact that conservatives will blame everything but guns is comical.

Anonymous said...

"The fact that conservatives will blame everything but guns is comical."

If guns are to blame, every one of 300 million guns would be going off and killing everyone.
But that is not happening. Guns don't act on their own. Also, guns don't tell people how to feel or act.
Minds controls the body. And what controls the minds? Other than natural psycho-chemicals in the body, our minds are controlled by books, movies, music, culture, education, entertainment, recreation, our social relations with other people, etc.

I mean would you blame bombs for Muslim suicide bombers? Bombs don't go off on their own. Bombs didn't tell terrorists to blow up stuff. No, radical Muslims were 'inspired' to use bombs by what they read in books and pamphlets, heard in Mosques, got from the internet, got from music, Muslim TV shows and education and etc.

Now, there is a case to be made for gun control. Guns should of course be controlled. But we are just wary of those who are using gun control to eventually ban guns.

Whiskey said...

Boo, if people have money to pay for guns, and want them, then rest assured criminal syndicates will provide them.

Laws only work if most people think they are worth obeying. That's why the media is very important, its the only social institution after the collapse of churchgoing.

Hereward said...

The novelist and film critic Stephen Hunter wrote a fine essay about the film Bonnie and Clyde, the real outlaw couple, and Frank Hamer, the Texas Ranger instrumental in running them to ground. He identifies the film's appeal at the time it came out: "It was an easy generational transference for the nascent Boomers to see themselves as so beautiful, so in love, so radical, so entitled to self-expression, so embittered by a failing economic system, so martyred by a crusty older generation that despised them for those attributes exactly."

Anonymous said...

Steve looks pretty cool for an old dude.

Anonymous said...

OT/ why did you put a picture of Mario Diaz-Balart as the profile pic on your blog?

BOO said...

Who is saying that all guns should be banned, other than a few far-left loons?

I am not even sure how a gun confiscation program would work considering there are close to 300 million guns in private ownership in the USA.

But this idea that gun regulation is considered evil by most conservatives is strange. The sale of alcohol, tabbaco, prescription drugs, and explosives is regulated. I don't see why guns have to be an exception.

The conservative solution to gun violence in America always seems to be arming even more people. This is madness. The wide availablity of guns obviously has consequences, but conservatives are unwilling to even acknowledge this basic fact.

David Davenport said...

The prototype for Bonnie and Clyde was the movie Gun Crazy, released in 1950*. GC is a better flick than B&C, in my opinion. For one thing, Gun Crrazy doesn't blame things on Southerners or hick cops.

*... 1950 release date -> This thread can digress into fim noir versus the 1960's and later zeitgeist.

/////////////////

Since we cannot lock up young thugs forever and throw away the key or just shoot them in the back of the head, what is to be done with them?
There is no good answer.


Huh? Many American states still have the remedies of the death penalty or life in prison without parole. What are you talking about? Are you a foreigner?

David Davenport said...

The conservative solution to gun violence in America always seems to be arming even more people. This is madness.

Please explain why this is madness.

David Davenport said...

fim noir

Sorry, film noir.

TontoBubbaGoldstein said...

The fact that conservatives will blame everything but guns is comical.


I guess I just don't "get" the joke.

The US has approximately 90 guns for every 100 people. Mexico has 15.
Mexico's gun homicide rate is 10 per 100,000 people per year. The US rate is less than 4 per 100,000 per year.

So...yeah....It must be the guns.
/sarcasm

Maguro said...

Who is saying that all guns should be banned, other than a few far-left loons?

I am not even sure how a gun confiscation program would work considering there are close to 300 million guns in private ownership in the USA.

But this idea that gun regulation is considered evil by most conservatives is strange. The sale of alcohol, tabbaco, prescription drugs, and explosives is regulated. I don't see why guns have to be an exception.


Guns aren't the exception. Guns are absolutely regulated in US, anyone claiming they're not is either stupid or disingenuous.

Guns are certainly regulated in Connecticut, of all places. We're not talking about Arkansas or Kentucky, where you can walk into Wal-Mart and walk out with a small arsenal the same day. In Connecticut, one of our most liberal states, you need get a a firearms license, go through background check and a waiting period before taking possession of a firearm. All of which Nancy Lanza did.

As for why gun owners think liberals want to ban guns, it's because they do. Gun owners aren't stupid. And frankly, banning private gun ownership is the ONLY gun control measure that might've prevented the Newtown massacre. Silly feel-good "something must be done!" measures like limiting magazine size to 10 rounds certainly wouldn't have had any effect. The end game is a gun ban and everyone knows it. The incremental "common sense" measures that the liberal politicians like to talk about are just means to an end.



Baloo said...

Mike Royko on B&C. Need to scroll down to it.
HERE

Norville Rogers said...

Not old enough to have been a reader of Bosley Crowther when he was extant but some of his reviews from the NYT stash are priceless, just for the window into the mind of pre-counterculture New York. I started reading through them when I saw the essay in Commentary; there was one film, I don't even remember the name, but it was about urban gay slice-of-life stuff, revolving around patrons of a gay bar & their melodrama, and Crowther didn't seem to care for it.

His review of "Mission to Moscow" is worth a look also

Anonymous said...

I've stayed in B&C's Joplin, MO garage apartment hideout where their most famous pictures were found.

MDR

Kylie said...

"The prototype for Bonnie and Clyde was the movie Gun Crazy, released in 1950*. GC is a better flick than B&C, in my opinion."

I love Gun Crazy and think it's a far better movie. But do you really consider it a prototype for Bonnie and Clyde? Gun Crazy's not a "message movie"; it's hot, not cool, and while it shows far less physical violence than Bonnie and Clyde, the damage bad people do to everyone around them is shown unvarnished.

I think in its dynamics, Gun Crazy has more in common with Born to Kill with Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor.

Like Steve, I didn't see Bonnie and Clyde till about 1990. It seemed like a jolly, stylish 60's romp to me, somewhat akin The Thomas Crown Affair, only with no chess and lots of blood. Gun Crazy and Born to Kill are high-energy, low-rent thrillers. They aren't saying much beyond 'Bad people do bad things and really bad people keep on doing really bad things until they are stopped.' Maybe a little folie a deux in there, too. But certainly no message about how cool stone-cold killers are, how outlaws are so hip they're not only beyond the reach of the law, they're above it altogether.

My sense is that Bonnie and Clyde is a departure from those earlier films, not the heir apparent to them.

Movie trivia: Burnett Guffey, who did the cinematography on two of Joseph Lewis's movies (So Dark the Night and My Name is Julia Ross) won the Oscar for his cinematography in Bonnie and Clyde.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Steve! A modern day Man For All Seasons. You are a treasure.

Aaron Gross said...

For those who like intellectual hatchet jobs, here's a classic diatribe against Kael, "The Perils of Pauline," by her New Yorker colleague Renata Adler. (I always get those European Jewish intellectual New Yorker ladies mixed up; Renata Adler's the one with the braid.)

FredR said...

Pauline Kael was an incredible writer. Even when she's totally off base talking up some entirely forgettable movie as the greatest thing since sliced bread, you can't put her down.

Aaron Gross said...

Re Bonny and Clyde, from the Renata Adler article I cited above:

She has, in principle, four things she likes: frissons of horror; physical violence depicted in explicit detail; sex scenes, so long as they have an ingredient of cruelty and involve partners who know each other either casually or under perverse circumstances; and fantasies of invasion by, or subjugation of or by, apes, pods, teens, bodysnatchers, and extraterrestrials. Whether or not one shares these predilections—and whether they are in fact more than four, or only one—they do not really lend themselves to critical discussion. It turns out, however, that Ms. Kael does think of them as critical positions, and regards it as an act of courage, of moral courage, to subscribe to them.

Anonymous said...

"Steve looks pretty cool for an old dude."

He should put on a pair of shades.

Auntie Analogue said...

Yes, American cinema has descended quite a way since James Cagney portrayed mobster-murderer Rocky Sullivan in 'Angels With Dirty Faces." For that matter cinema has descended quite a way since Cagney's (still) chilling performance in 'White Heat' as Cody Jarrett.

Now we have presidents who order the torture of helpless captives and order and condone torture and non-judicial murder of U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, that bearded purveyor of "workplace violence" who murdered fourteen human beings in cold blood as he shouted "Allahu Akbar" is still drawing breath and still drawing pay at the rank of Major from you and me and everyone else who pays taxes.

Yet some people wonder why I will never relinquish my firearms and never surrender the right to keep and bear arms that is enshrined as a right, not as a privilege, in what remains of our much-abused Constitution.

'Bonnie & Clyde' was just Left-lib glorification of murderous low-life trash as "anti-heroes" - one of the pet themes of the Left, just as importing the Third World and telling us that this sort of immigration is good for us, when millions of American citizens are out of work, is another of the Left's pet themes.

jody said...

"The conservative solution to gun violence in America always seems to be arming even more people. This is madness."

not that i think arming even more people is the one single solution to every problem or the answer to every conundrum, however, if it's madness, then why is it working?

more people than ever are carrying handguns secretly, but violent crime is going DOWN. NOT up. i certainly think this is due to several factors, and not a simple increase in how many people are armed when they walk out the door. and, violent crime is actually going up again in some cities - but among NAMs.

if the explosion of concealed carry was something which made society more dangerous, then i think the statistics would show that. there would be more stories in every local newspaper about "white guy shoots white guy in applebee's parking lot" or "redneck gets angry about ford versus chevy trucks, shoots other redneck at chevron gas station".

instead, the statistics show that allowing qualified adults to carry guns is probably a minor to moderate contributor to violent crime decreasing. an armed society is a polite society. understand, i'm not advocating everybody carry handguns at all times. that's just as unreasonable as total disarmament.

every time you go to the mall or the supermarket or wal-mart or target or costco or wherever you shop, there's more than one guy in there carrying a handgun. you don't even know.

jody said...

here's an excellent graphic from wikipedia in the form of a gif, showing just how many handguns there really are now in 2012, versus 26 years ago in 1986:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/Rtc.gif

this change in law is what started the george kellgren inspired small handgun revolution. i previously mentioned kellgren, a swedish immigrant, and his kel-tec handguns. but there was also larry seecamp (german), karl rohrbaugh (german) and justin moon (korean).

later the major manufacturers copied their designs, and this is, in part, what has lead to booming sales and stock prices for ruger and smith & wesson. and, probably, a small to moderate reduction in violent crime. it certainly hasn't lead to an increase in shootings.

Steve Sailer said...

" "redneck gets angry about ford versus chevy trucks, shoots other redneck at chevron gas station".

Right, I can't say about the rest of the county but I read up on every single homicide death of a male age 15-29 in giant Los Angeles County (3% of the U.S. population, a fair amount of it exurban High Desert) in 2007-2009 and didn't see much in the way of white youths killing white youths with guns in stupid arguments, even though the Big 5 sporting goods store right off Ventura Blvd. offers a dozen or so kind of guns for sale. I think there was one one white youth on white youth parking lot murder in LA County in three years, but I think that was a beating.

On the other hand, there are a lot of white-on-white murder-suicides in LA County with guns. And a gun is a pretty handy prop for bringing about suicide-by-cop.

Anonymous said...

"Crowther had been the chief movie reviewer of the New York Times for 27 years and was the champion voice of serious liberal uplift and respectability."

Sounds like a possible example of the shift from Victorian liberal values whose aim was to get lower IQ people to make the same choices as higher IQ people thereby uplifting them and narrowing the gap between castes and the modern "liberal" values whose aim is to encourage lower IQ people to self-harm thereby increasing the gap thereby cementing the caste system in place as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

"Since we cannot lock up young thugs forever and throw away the key or just shoot them in the back of the head, what is to be done with them? There is no good answer."

Only if you ignore genetics.

Most of them it kicks off around puberty and starts to cool off around mid-20s - which is exactly what you'd expect given our chimp ancestry.

So lock them up till they've grown out of it - only throw away the key for the few who never do grow out of it. They have fewer kids because they spend their prime years in jail and less of it gets passed down to the next generation.

Really easy.

The only reason this isn't common knowledge is Boas and his blank slate nonsense.

In practical terms you could have a policy of three strikes and you're out until age 26 followed by four strikes and you're out for good.

The mistake is locking up people for life before they've passed the cooling down age as that's both a waste of money in itself and it blocks a space for someone more deserving.

Oh and of course STOP importing more criminals every year.

.
"13th Warrior"

great movie

Evan McLaren said...

"Frankly appalled." When can we be freed from church lady conservatism?

RS said...

> That era rapidly closed down around 1935, and with it homicide rates. Which one is cause and which one is effect?

I'm gonna say neither. I think people sense that something like the Depression puts people in the social mood to punish the heck out of antisocial behaviors. '35 is when the Depression would have truly set in pscyhologically. Because the prior economic dislocations were really nasty, only they were over in a couple years. Which, though it can prove nothing all by itself, is obviously exhibit A1 in the case in favor of government intervention's being the main cause of the perseverating nature of the phenomenon.

JSM said...

"there is a case to be made for gun control. Guns should of course be controlled"

Yeppers.

Gun control is hitting what you aim at.

RS said...

> Since we cannot lock up young thugs forever and throw away the key or just shoot them in the back of the head, what is to be done with them?
There is no good answer.

Davenport is right, the decision was made in 1980, you aren't aware of it is all. Per capita imprisonment soared from that year, and the total change is about 4x.

The thing is, it can't really go up another 4x to 16x the 1980 rate. That would just be too wild. So, if criminal tendencies and drives (not crime itself) continue to soar, which apparently they are continuing to -- crime itself is not soaring, because of imprisonment -- then yes, there will eventually be some kind of an impasse.

Anonymous said...

She has, in principle, four things she likes: frissons of horror; physical violence depicted in explicit detail; sex scenes, so long as they have an ingredient of cruelty and involve partners who know each other either casually or under perverse circumstances; and fantasies of invasion by, or subjugation of or by, apes, pods, teens, bodysnatchers, and extraterrestrials. Whether or not one shares these predilections—and whether they are in fact more than four, or only one—they do not really lend themselves to critical discussion. It turns out, however, that Ms. Kael does think of them as critical positions, and regards it as an act of courage, of moral courage, to subscribe to them.

LOL. Kael was a good critic, but Adler's right.

Cennbeorc

Paul Mendez said...

As I remember it, the public's fascination with the real Bonnie & Clyde was only positive during the first part of their criminal careers, when they were perceived as merely bank robbers.

But public opinion changed after they murdered a young, recently wed motorcycle cop who happened upon the gang sleeping in their car.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the homicide rate might not be a lot higher still but for various factors;

A. Paramedics. They only debuted in 1972. Prior to that time pretty much all they had was guys who were basically just ambulance drivers.

B. Cell phones. Years ago if you got shot outdoors and you were not near a public phone you had a real problem trying to call for help. Today just about everyone has a cell phone and can just call 911 right away.

C. General improvements in medical knowledge and technology. Survival rates have been pushed up in just about every category.

Also since none of these factors existed prior to say, 1965, the homicide rate might have been even lower had they been available.

Anonymous said...

Personally speaking the only memorable thing about Bonnie and Clyde was Gene Hackman's joke about a cow.

Anonymous said...

"She has, in principle, four things she likes: frissons of horror; physical violence depicted in explicit detail; sex scenes, so long as they have an ingredient of cruelty and involve partners who know each other either casually or under perverse circumstances; and fantasies of invasion by, or subjugation of or by, apes, pods, teens, bodysnatchers, and extraterrestrials."

But Kael hated the violence in El Topo. And she disliked the sex and violence in Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange.

Dutch Boy said...

Crowther - liberal WASP replaced by Pauline Kael, leftist Jew - it's the 60s in a nutshell.

Kylie said...

"Personally speaking the only memorable thing about Bonnie and Clyde was Gene Hackman's joke about a cow."

For me, it was Faye Dunaway's cheekbones and Estelle Parsons with that eye bandage.

Anonymous said...

"Crowther - liberal WASP replaced by Pauline Kael, leftist Jew - it's the 60s in a nutshell."

Kael was not leftist. She was liberal politically when push came to shove. But her default position was individualist, and she was pretty politically incorrect. I think a lot of PC people would wince at the stuff she wrote back in the days. She certainly pissed off gays in the 80s and drove Jews crazy by panning Shoah.

And even when she didn't like a certain movie, she tried to understand the appeal and praised what was special about it. The first Kael review I stumbled upon--while browsing through movie books at the high school library--was on Dirty Harry. It was a revelation. She hated Dirty Harry's political philosophy but explained its allure as filmmaking(especially the brilliance of editing) and law-and-order fantasy. She didn't like the ideas behind Cuckoo's Nest either but found it 'smashingly effective' or something like that.

Her stuff on King Kong is a riot:

http://www.pulpanddagger.com/canuck/kkreviews.html

"The eroticism of the earlier Kong was rather nightmarish, especially for women -- though black women may have experienced it differently, as a slap. Whites have sometimes spoken of the movie as a racial slur, but the black men that I've known have always loved it. It was their own special urban gorilla-guerrilla fantasy: to be a king in your own country, to be brought her in chains, to be so strong that you could roar your defiance at the top of the big city and go down in a burst of glory. This time, Kong is less threatening, and the sexual references are out on top. After the Skull Island savages abduct Dwan and put her on the altar as a full-moon sacrifice to Kong, they scurry back to safety on their side of the high wall and slide a prodigiously long, slick black bolt across the gate. However, it's almost an invasion of the viewer's privacy when one of the men on the expedition (Ed Lauter) quizzes Jack about what the ape wants with Dwan. Since the conception of the movie is a phallic joke carried on the level of myth, why raise this lame, prosaic question of what Kong wants? Obviously he wants to consummate his passion, and just as obviously he can't. He's the misfit extraordinaire. Like the earlier Kong, this one has no visible gentitals; he doesn't need them -- Kong is a walking forty-foot genital. What makes him such a pop mythic hero is that he's also pre-phallic -- the Teddy Bear Christ of the sixties flower children, Christ as a mistreated pet."

Anonymous said...

Kael, as a Jew, distrusted Wasp America. But as a West Coast daughter of a chicken raising Republican father, she didn't see eye to eye with East Coast Jews.

tourmaline said...

"There are allusions as well to literature. Ms. Kael likes to mention Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare’s fools. “It’s like a classic passage in Tolstoy,” she writes, and before one can wonder Really? Which? she has dropped the subject."

Hilarious. I read something by Adler years ago, a novel called "Pitch Dark" about a brief sojourn in Ireland, where she'd ended up for odd reasons and spent an odd time. Didn't really like her much (I'm mostly Irish, and she didn't like most of them, but I don't totally blame her), yet have never forgotten the book because her writing was so brilliant. Except for a few bigoted opinions (imo), every other observation seemed to split the atom all over again.

All due respect to Kael, she kept up the adolescent angst too long

Anonymous said...

"All due respect to Kael, she kept up the adolescent angst too long"

She wrote some of her best stuff in the 80s.

Her reviews of Makioka Sisters, Once Upon A Time in America, and Ran are among the best reviews ever. Personally, her MK and OUATIA reviews are the two best I've ever read.

She wrote in a more leisurely, measured, and reflective style in the 80s since she had nothing more to prove. She had already left her impact on culture, and times had changed and the movie love culture that had so excited her in the 60s and 70s had passed away. Interesting that all three films mentioned above were by directors who made their name in the 50s and 60s.

Anonymous said...

The UK murder rate was at it lowest circa 1960, as well.

Has decreased in recent years, though.

Sideways said...

That Buchanan piece is just pathetically bad.

Anonymous said...

"Also since none of these factors existed prior to say, 1965, the homicide rate might have been even lower had they been available."

Good point--They should just talk about number of shootings or attempted murders.

Anonymous said...

Great column steve, although the comments are dumb - as usual. However, there were a couple smart ones, so far. The whole point of B&C is not to glorify the criminals but to attack the squares, aka the middle-class, middle Americans that the film ridicules, sneers at, and attacks for "oppressing" our noble outlaws. The Lawman, the storekeepers, the average citizens are just a bunch of squares/rednecks/white males who deserve to be ridiculed, robbed, and even murdered by B&C. Above all, the movie invites us all to identify with the outlaw and not those nasty rednecks. That's the whole point.

Mr. Anon said...

I must have seen a different version of Bonnie and Clyde. I liked it. And I thought it did a pretty good job at portraying the protaganists as being vicious, amoral killers. They even threw in that bit about Clyde being impotent or perhaps even implying that he was homosexual, which hardly seems designed to glorify him.

The violence in the movie was ugly and unglamorous. And I found that I sympathised with the Texas ranger. In fact, when Bonnie and Clyde get hosed down at the end, I found myself thinking: 'bout time - good riddance to bad trash.

Matthew said...

"Also since none of these factors existed prior to say, 1965, the homicide rate might have been even lower had they been available."

I think we actually went through this some months ago on a thread about crime rates. I'm not going to rehash that but, iirc, the rate of attempted murder (or maybe it was shooting victims - I forget) has actually fallen faster than the murder rate. That means that the percentage of victims of attempted murder who survive has actually fallen. Either medical care has gotten worse, or criminals are doing a better job coming with the firepower they need to do the job. I'm guessing it's the latter.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous Matthew said...

I think we actually went through this some months ago on a thread about crime rates. I'm not going to rehash that but, iirc, the rate of attempted murder (or maybe it was shooting victims - I forget) has actually fallen faster than the murder rate."

That was asserted by someone, but it was only an assertion - I don't recall them offering any proof of it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Kael liked Bonnie and Clyde for its politics though. I think she liked its anarchic energy, its willingness to give the middle finger to Old Hollywood, its daring to be wild and crazy.
Kael actually attacked Little Big Man for using Indians as too easy a metaphor for Vietnam.

I think she liked Mel Brooks Inquisition number for the same reason she liked Bonnie and Clyde. Some Jews may have found it offensive, but Kael saw Brooks as a kin-spirit who didn't let good times go to waste because it might offend finer sensibilities.

Kael wasn't really into politics in movies. She hated all of Stanley Kramer movies and often berated Hollywood for its liberal sanctimoniousness. She didn't care for stuff like Birdman of Alcatraz. But she loved Manchurian Candidate because its premise and execution were wildly perverse. I think she said Bonnie and Clyde is the most entertaining American film since the Manchurian Candidate.
She loved Brando for the same reason. Not for his politics but for his pushing the envelope movie after movie. The character he played in The Godfather was pretty conservative--family patriarch--, but she found the role powerful and authentic, something unprecedented in American movies.

And Kael loved The Leopard even though its sentiments were conservative, even reactionary. She responded to its romanticism and beauty. She liked that it was shamelessly conservative without apology. It had guts--though to be sure, it was directed by a Marxist, but then, to be sure again, Visconti was also a gay of aristocratic lineage.

And I think Kael responded to The Conformist for the same reason. Not for its politics but for its shameless pageantry of beauty and sensuality. She loved Riefenstahl's OLYMPIAD too. What she didn't like were sermons whether they were liberal, conservative, or Jewish. She hated Stanley Kramer, Forrest Gump, and Shoah.

Among Kurosawa films, she loved Seven Samurai and Yojimbo the most. They were most action packed and riproaring. She didn't care so much for his more cautious 'thoughtful movies'. It was as if Kael practiced a pop version of 'against interpretation'. She believe in the 'erotics of art'.

Anonymous said...

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/backissues/2010/03/eighty-five-from-the-archive-pauline-kael.html

“Bonnie and Clyde” is the most excitingly American American movie since “The Manchurian Candidate.”

Anonymous said...

Bonnie and Clyde did pave the way for Wild Bunch, The Getaway, and Long Riders, movies I love.
Stanley Kauffmann loved The Getaway. He wrote "...the picture is smashing. Sam Peckinpah directed, damn him. He is quite clearly a madman with, among other gifts, an extraordinary talent for murder, so powerful that he makes us enjoy blood. 'Down Peckinpah', cries civilization. 'Oh yeah', grins Peckinpah, knowing the truth about us. Part of the truth is, if you have enough ability and enough conviction, you can make almost anything work in art."

Kauffmann reacted to The Getaway the way Kael did to Bonnie and Clyde. Kauffmann was more of a 'serious' critic, a moralist, and a genteel scholar of culture. But even he couldn't resist the thrills of Peckinpah's blood-letting(though to be sure, The Getaway's violence was pared down to make it rated PG, something also done to Killer Elite, much to Peckinpah's aggrieve-ment).

Interesting that Peckinpah and Kael were very good friends. Both hailed from the West(and in a way, it was like they were waging a two front culture war against both the East Coast and Southern California of Los Angeles and Hollywood. Both were from northern California. To them, East Coast was too 'established' and southern california of Hollywood was too crass and materialistic. So, Kael's bohemianism and Peckinpah western outlawism felt something in common).

In a way, the pistol-pud scene in Bonnie & Clyde summed it all up. 60s was about the 'liberation' of repressed energies, and the two energies called out to be liberated were sexuality and violence. Though Americans had always been having sex(why else did the population explode in the 19th century?) and always been using violence(in wars of conquest and domination and crime), American moralism tended to repress the truth about these matters. So, sex was something that happened only in the bedroom--and in private bedrooms as movie bedrooms used to show different beds for women and men. And though there had been many movies about violence in westerns and crime movies, the expression of violence was heavily censored--no one bled--and the action was moralized, with good guys getting the bad guys or bad guys finally getting their comeuppance so that good law-abiding folks can breathe easy again.

Where B&C was different was its unapologetic approach to both sexuality and violence. It wasn't necessarily pro-sex and pro-violence but admitted that they are central to people's lives and fantasies.
Sexual liberation didn't mean you could go out and run naked and rape, but it did mean we should face sexuality more honestly and see it as an essential part of human nature. And movies like B&C and Wild Bunch did the same for violence. They didn't necessarily say violence was good or that we should go out and kill, but they did say American history has been violent and that there is a natural thirst for violence in human nature. Unlike in old Hollywood movies where violence was the product of evil, thereby necessitating the counter-violence of the good guys in order to re-establish peace, movies like B&C and Wild Bunch said that violence, like sex, is a natural instinct in us that has a pleasure principle of its own. Our animal nature drives us toward sex and violence/domination/destruction.

Anonymous said...

This was a dangerous idea to be sure, but it's not hard to understand why it felt refreshing in the late 60s when American cinema was being 'liberated' or unloosed from old constraints of moralism that limited what could be shown and said on the big screen.

And this was bound to happen sooner or later because there's something transgressive about movies. We don't go to movies to see mundane reality or hear sermons. We have mundane reality in our lives and we can go to churches for sermons. The appeal of movies is allowing us to fantasize about most of us don't do in real life. So, we abhor car crashes in real life but love seeing them in the movies. We hate outlaws in real life, but in the movies, we identify with them because outlaws transgress against social norms and live by the credo of "I did it my way". So, even law-abiding people enjoy movies about bankrobbers and gangsters.

Old Hollywood did sell violence but pretended not to. Cecil B. Demille movies had lots of half-naked pagan ladies acting lusty, but Demille draped them with sermons about sin and wickedness, about how Moses couldn't stand any of that and so had to put a stop to the nasty stuff--but only after we got to ogle at all that stuff for a long stretch; it's like Samson and Delilah is really a celebration of pagan sensuality before, at the very end, it's all ended with blinded Samson killing everyone.
But in fact, the audience were actually enjoying all that 'wicked' stuff, even if they were loathe to admit it.

It was in the 60s that movies began to admit to the true nature of human nature. That people like sex for sex-sake and violence for violence-sake. But there was also danger in opening this pandora's box, and Hitchcock's The Birds anticipated the social fury that would be unleashed by the new libertinism.

Anonymous said...

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was like B&C and WB for the middle class parents and their kids. Kael didn't like it. Too pretty, too cute.

But I always enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Cinema is fantasize-ation of predators by the prey.

'Good people'(prey folks), try to rid society of 'bad people'(predator folks). But herbivores wanna watch carnivores.