Criminology and American History X

388 words | 2 page(s)

The 1998 film, American History X, tells a story of crime and racial tension. While I cannot provide a exhaustive analysis of the film or theories of media and criminology, I will highlight two themes and discuss their relevance for the media’s portrayal of crime. First, we will examine the nature of crime in the film. Second, we will discover the degree to which society is exposed to the media, particularly the movie itself.

The crimes in the film include many concrete actions such as harming people and stealing. However, from a broader perspective, we see these crimes from an ethnic perspective. The film does not only portray murder and hatred, it revolves these crimes around issues of race. The characters cull from former crimes, such as those committed by the Nazi Party and American slavery, and re-presents them in a group of neo-Nazi extremists. The belief system and criminal drive of the characters centers on differences in race. Hence, what is the nature of crime in American History X? Rather than legal, judicial process, or corrective, it is foremost racial.

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In our textbook, Robinson proffers the concept of exposure. He claims we should examine media based upon the degree to which citizens are exposed to the product. In terms of American History X, we should account for its medium. It is a film featured in cinemas for weeks at a time, and then released for private rental and purchase. These outlets demonstrate its public and widespread nature. The medium of film exposes a massive number of people to a message, and in this case, crime. A book or Youtube video may garner a similar following, however, the access to American History X suggests that the crimes depicted entered society on a level of publicity and endorsement greater than that of print or viral, online sources.

In conclusion, we found that the film American History X fronts criminal practices in a racial framework. Rather than structuring them in a court or domestic system, the filmmakers chose ethnic tension. We also accounted for the nature of the film’s exposure. Its medium greatly affects the power and scope at which it enters society, with film constituting one of the more public and endorsed methods. While this study is limited, it has illuminated significant, and culturally and criminologically relevant issues.

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