Why are gangsters romanticised on screen?

In films and TV shows, ranging from ‘The Godfather’ to ‘Peakey Blinders’, gangsters are almost always depicted sympathetically. They’re the heroes, the people we root for. It doesn’t matter how many people they kill, we see them as being justified. But why do we look at them so favourably? It’s not as simple as them being the focal point. What almost every gangster film or TV show does is show the excitement and glamour of their lives, often against a bleak backdrop. ‘Broadwalk Empire’, for instance, is set in the era of prohibition. It’s not just that their lives are exciting though. There’s this sense that they can do anything, that they have so much power. As much as we might disagree with the violence, the sense that they can do something if someone comes against them is an intoxicating thought. ‘The Godfather’ perfectly captured the idea of Michael getting payback when someone tried to kill his father. In fact, the whole idea of gangsters as family, whether or not they’re related by blood, makes their actions more sympathetic. There’s a sense of loyalty between all of them that is heightened because they are always in life or death situations. This in turn makes betrayal, even worse.

Discuss how and why films and TV shows glamorise gangsters.

  • Great topic! I wonder, too, how this may relate to our love of the anti-hero, like Deadpool or Venom recently? – Heather Lambert 6 years ago
  • Just to correct, "As much as we might degree with the violence." Disagree for degree. A good idea, maybe this needs to be addressed in terms of some movies creating images of gangsters with family ties and presented sympathetically and others not. Also, where is the dividing line of how to present gangsters. I'm not sure sympathetic would be the way I would characterize gangsters in the Godfather movies. – Joseph Cernik 6 years ago
  • Maybe because of the hope that even the scariest and the most violent gangsters could change their lives to a better one, isn't it romantic? that someone on an evil mind turned into a good person because someone give them a chance that all of us deserves? – pinoyonlinetv 6 years ago
  • Gangster films are their own genres and can be endlessly debated and critiqued! Great topic! – Sean Gadus 6 years ago
  • Interesting idea. You could even branch off and explore gangster love interests, e.g. Harley Quinn and The Joker. While they might not be the healthiest relationships, they have a huge sense of allure and are often romanticised to the max! – Gemma Ferguson 5 years ago

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