Privatization Is the New Black

Quality Television and the Re-Fashioning of the U.S. Prison Industrial Complex

Authored by: Maria Pramaggiore

The Routledge Companion to Global Popular Culture

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415641470
eBook ISBN: 9780203081846
Adobe ISBN: 9781136175961

10.4324/9780203081846.ch17

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Abstract

Criminal behavior has always been fashionable in American popular culture. The first “original gangstas” appeared in early films such as D. W. Griffith’s Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912). This urban gangster film, shot on New York’s lower East Side, became notorious because it claimed to feature petty street criminals as extras, a promotional stunt that—whether factual or not—established an enduring connection between sociopaths and their silver screen counterparts that remains intact in films such as Goodfellas (1990) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). In the 1930s, Little Caesar (1931), Public Enemy (1931), and Scarface (1932) shocked audiences with violent prohibition-era scenarios that were “ripped from the headlines,” a phrase used six decades later to tout the authenticity of the NBC television program Law & Order (1990–2010), which traded upon topical, true crime plotlines.

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