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Films and Social Attitude

Films from a given period reflect the social attitudes of that time, no matter when they may be set in time. Thus, a science fiction film may exist in an imaginary future, but the attitudes are those of the time in which the film is made. The gangster film has a particular history of reflecting social and political concepts of the time when the film is made because of the effort to show the way society may cause crime and the effect crime in turn has on society. An interesting way of analyzing this is to examine the same story filmed in two different periods, such as the two versions of Scarface (1932 and 1983). Each takes an overt stance to the issue of the relationship between crime and society even as each also reflects different ideas of how the criminal is formed by his psychology. The two Scarfaces are motivated largely by a desire to get ahead in the American context. Each is also an immigrant. Each in some way reflects attitudes toward the America dream, immigration, and feeding public dependencies, in the first instance on alcohol, in the second on drugs. Analysis shows that while societal attitudes toward crime have changed in some degree, underlying both films is a similar dynamic and a similar belief that the criminal will ultimately fail and lose his battle for success in the process.

The gangster film is a staple in the American cinema and has developed a number of icons, characters, and images that recur from one film to the next and that not only identify the genre but help the viewer know how to react to the presentation. Thomas Schatz notes that film genres can be viewed as systems developed within the confines of commercial filmmaking to sell films as specific types for those who would consume those types. The genre is also a cultural structure that becomes a meaningful system recognized as such:

To identify a popular cinematic formula, then, is to recognize its status as a coherent, value-laden n...

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Films and Social Attitude. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:27, November 29, 2021, from