We want to love criminals.After all, who among us has not sat at his office desk or her cash register, dreaming of an escape plan? How many of us would love to live outside the confining rules of society, running free with the wolves, punching our enemies with our bare fists and stealing all the video games we could ever desire?
Banks, government, religion. In theory, we’d love to watch all our institutions crumble to dust. That’s the lure of a life of crime.
But there aren’t any embraceable criminals these days. A quick sampling of recent crimes suggest none of the perpetrators is a lovable rogue whose exploits we can merrily follow. Sure, we’d love to thumb our noses at the bumbling cops who can’t ever catch up with the suave cat burgler, but that never seems to happen. Instead, we’ve got a bunch of cops who are hard-working, good people and criminals who are nasty, self-centered fools. What’s the matter with this country? Our criminals are shortchanging us.
We need to hearken back to the days of pirates. Pirates often had better lives (excepting their brutal executions) than the merchant sailors they robbed. In fact, many formerly above-law seamen turned pirate at the first opportunity. The pay was better, the rum was better, and the people they robbed were often rich landowners who routinely mistreated their employees and owned slaves.
What about Jesse James? A ruthless outlaw, James captured the heart of the nation by murdering and robbing. He was so loved, in fact, that Robert Ford was christened a “coward” for shooting James in the back of the head.
In absence of real embraceable criminals, society turns to its storytellers to create a supply. Robin Hood, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Catwoman, and Patrick Swayze’s character in Point Break are but a few of the fictional criminals we turn to in these lean times. Even Batman is, at best, a vigilante whose motives remain shady to the public at large. When we can’t find enough criminals to love, we turn our heroes into criminals. That, my friends, is the true meaning of The Dark Knight.
Why is it that our criminals are so unlovable? Instead of robbing Rich White Guy Bank to save the orphanage, we get teenage thugs who hit a Circle K to get money for crack. There is nothing lovable about meth addicts, nor is cocaine a drug that promotes altruism. I want a witty criminal, a criminal who leaves rhyming notes taunting the investigators. I want a criminal who knows how to dress for any occasion, be it a jewel heist or a yacht party in the Caribbean. I want a criminal who can turn Larry King into a babbling idiot with a mere phone call to his live show. A criminal whose voice is smooth like Frank Sinatra’s, whose eyes pierce your very soul, whose dark mind lures you in to his evil schemes. A criminal to sweep you off your feet.
In this age of crooked investors and petty creeps, drugged-out zombies and twisted accountants, we need someone to remind us that crime can be sexy.