Fear the "Kids in America": How Youth Gang Films Constructed a Criminal Class, 1973-1994 Restricted; Files & ToC
Goodman, Jason (Spring 2021)
Throughout the twentieth century and prior, popular cultural assumed an integral role in perpetuating the myth of black criminals that was inscribed in the American legal system. There is much scholarship on the political, demographic, and economic trends that cemented the myth of black criminality into the popular consciousness, however, historians have not attempted to parse late twentieth century popular culture for its role in constructing the cultural landscape which the era of mass incarceration rests upon. Utilizing films that center youth gangs from 1973-1994, this thesis attempts to understand the role that film and its characterizations of black youth criminals played in justifying urban crime policies and police tactics that became harsher and more expansive near the end of the twentieth century.
Chapter 1 explores the myth of black youth criminals and blighted cities and the policies and trends through which the myth was developed throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Chapter 2, this thesis turns to films produced at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s arguing their representations blamed the physical spaces of the city for their criminogenic potential. Chapter 3 explores films produced at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, attempting to uncover the changes in representations these films pursued and the ideologies they ultimately served. Contextualizing these films with other news reports, policy memos, and additional primary sources, this project attempts to explore the historical contexts these films existed within and how their distinct representations of black youth criminals and the cities they lived in were undergirded by ideologies that ultimately justified the era of mass incarceration in the American popular consciousness.
Table of Contents
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About this Honors Thesis
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