October 05, 2004

Crime and Deviance

Gave a little though into what is mean by 'crime novel' today after the Crime and Deviance seminar. Can we broadly say that any novel/movie that describe a crime is a crime novel? Not quite, I suppose. There was a classic Italian film called 'The Bicycle Thief', and the story is something like this:

Antonio finds a job of posting bills after two years of unemployment, and he needs therefore a bicycle to travel around. Desperately, he exchanges his family's linen for a bicycle. Tragically, the bike is stolen on the first day of his work. He and his son find the theif but the police are unwilling to help as they don't have any witness or evidence. Hopelessly, he attempts to steal a bicycle but is caught in the act.

So this is definitely a story about crime, where there are at least two stealing happened; the motivation of Antonio's criminal act is clearly identifiable – but it just don't fit well with the normal conception of crime fiction – no killing, no violence, no gunfights and no detectives. This echoed what was said in the seminar that extreme/violent crimes are overly represented in crime fiction.

Even if there are plenty of gunfights, killings and straight forward criminal activities, I am still not very sure whether the typical gangster movies/ stories like the Godfather can be catagorised as crime story – perhaps the Corleone family was somehow romanticised there and they were not caught – in that case their criminal acts seems kinda 'normalise'. This happens in many films which romanticise criminal acts as well, like the Ocean Elevens – where the crime is portrayed so entertaining that you won't realise that is illegal (or morally wrong). The Scarface on the other hand feels more like a crime story because Al Pacino is shot dead in the end (so usually a typical crime fiction would reassure us that criminals have to pay for their crime).


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