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How far is the gangster genre a creation of the necessity to promote civic responsibility and social contentment with ones society, through mass media?

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Introduction

How far is the gangster genre a creation of the necessity to promote civic responsibility and social contentment with ones society, through mass media? The Gangster genre is a creation of the 20th century as it originally took many of its plots and characters directly from the activities of those involved in the highly influential gang culture which developed in America during the 1920's. As such, by the subject matter they cover, Gangster films are restricted to portraying the negative aspects of society, as shown by the culture of criminality they project and the lax morals of the film's protagonists. Looking at the title question it becomes apparent that there are a few areas which must first be examined before a full and satisfactory examination of the overall question can be attempted. The factors which require this clarification are; what constitutes civic responsibility and social contentment? ; Why does this desire exist? ; How is this desire seen in other genres? Civic responsibility in this case could be seen as the politically preferable system of norms and codes of behaviour to which it is hoped the population of a country will ascribe themselves. This is the preferred situation for any governmental body as it means that the population of a country would be in consensus with the aims of the ruling body rather than opposing them. This opposition can take many different forms from criminal acts to full blown revolution. It may appear very obvious that it is in a governments best interests to promote this idea of Civic responsibility as it would help to decrease the number of social problems within a country such as crime, it also helps the members of the society to directly recognise actions which could be construed as anti-social and as such would allow local communities to police themselves through schemes such as neighbourhood watch, thus taking the pressure off the countries police force. ...read more.

Middle

Although Henry has avoided the ultimate fate of the Gangster he cannot better himself in the real world because of the restrictions he has placed upon himself as a result of the life style he originally chose. In this way the film seems to suggest that the Gangster will still be punished for their actions, they cannot simply be allowed to enter back into society freely as this would undermine the labour of the legitimate work force. As can be clearly seen there is a strong argument that Gangster films are used in the same way as cautionary tales told to children by their mothers, although in this case the mother is replaced by the censorship boards of the country and the studios which produce the film. However it can be said that there have been some films which do not seem to follow the idea that 'crime doesn't pay' to the contrary in fact, 'crime pays big, and it's cool!' 'The Godfather' is a film which inspired a generation of film makers (and a generation of gangsters if you believe the FBI), but it contains perspectives on the gangster life style which are not the traditionally accepted ones. If 'The Godfather' is taken as a stand alone film it does not include the traditional destruction of the main protagonist (although this aspect is examined in 'Godfather part III') on the contrary the film depicts Michael's meteoric rise within the family. Although this alone is a major break from tradition it is not the most drastic aspect of the 'Godfather' films. This comes in the form of the recent comparisons which have been drawn between the growth of Vito Corleone's crime empire and the ideological view of the 'American dream'. That is to say a penniless boy is able to come to America and make a success of him self, although in this case he achieves this power through ruthless acts of violence. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion it would appear that the Gangster genre was indeed created in part from the political desire to promote civic responsibility within its people, however this in no way was the only influence on the early Gangster films. The stringent censorship laws around which the films were constructed may have played a major part in the formation of the early Gangster films, although the political aspect was still required as it was possible for early film makers to work around these censorship laws, by releasing the film un-rated for example. The idea of social contentment was promoted through the idea that the conformity with civic responsibilities would lead to this contentment, however in recent years it would appear that the happiness of the audience is being more directly approached through the entertainment value of the film its self. An excellent way to look at the out early gangster films would be to look at another James Cagney film, 'Angels with Dirty Faces', this films ending shows exactly what the classification boards were afraid of, they felt that a strong gangster character would cause members of the populace to follow in their footsteps, so both in the James Cagney film and in the eyes of the censors the Gangster could not maintain their dignity for the good of society. It would appear however that this belief has been lost some what by today's media savvy society and as such the Gangster can now stand proud, corrupt, but proud. Finally it is important to note that with the expanse in the range of mass media it is no longer necessary or viable to attempt to indoctrinate people through the use of movies alone, instead it is much easier to use movies to entertain the population and as such use these films as an escapist method of maintaining social contentment while other media out lets and institutions are used to promote civic responsibility. ...read more.

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