Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – April 15, 2008: A DEPRESSED ECONOMY IS A TIME RIPE FOR CRIMINAL FOLK HEROES.

I just finished reviewing The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in our Movie Renter’s Guide.

I also just watched a documentary on Jesse James on broadcast TV.

What was so interesting was the similarity in the way that Jesse James was revered in his day and the way people felt about a pair of folk heroes a little more than a half century later, Bonnie and Clyde.

The James gang came to be at at time when the South was trying to recover from losing the Civil War, and when southern banks held money mostly belonging to investors from the north, called “carpet baggers” because they showed up carrying large bags that looked like they were made from carpets.

So, even though Jesse James was a psychopathic murderer, southerners protected him and his gang members because they felt that the banks and railroads were exploiting them.

The same thing occurred with Bonnie and Clyde. They rose in fame as the Depression of the 1930′s held the entire country in the grip of financial disaster. Farms were lost to banks that held the mortgages, so when Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow robbed those banks, the farmers loved it.

What I am wondering, as I read today’s newspapers that discuss millions of families losing their homes through bank mortgage foreclosures, oil prices going sky high, and not enough food to take care of so many people in other countries, is whether or not we may see emerging criminals being turned into folk heroes once again.

We’ll see.

One Response to “Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – April 15, 2008: A DEPRESSED ECONOMY IS A TIME RIPE FOR CRIMINAL FOLK HEROES.”

  1. ovation Says:

    It’s the “Robin Hood” syndrome–only we appear to be less picky about the modern (19th century and beyond) versions as a society. Moreover, while “Robin Hood”, in some form, likely did exist, the very scant knowledge we have of him is completely buried by the legend–he may well have been similarly “unbalanced” as Jesse James or Bonnie and Clyde.

    But there is a strong correlation, historically (I’m an historian, so I’ve seen a number of examples of this phenomenon), between bad economic times and a willingness to overlook some serious (at times appalling) flaws if it appears someone is “sticking it to the man”.

    This phenomenon partly explains the support for (or, more frequently, tolerance of) some terrorist groups/activities around the world. Hamas would not enjoy a broad measure of influence if things were going swimmingly in the Palestinian territories (particularly Gaza), for example. As for who will emerge closer to home as the “(criminal) folk hero” of the day, it will be interesting to see. I should be very surprised if we DON’T see one emerge.

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