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Outlaw to Hero December 11, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, history, New Mexico, outlaws, westerns, Wild West, writing.

PBS on its American Experience series, is doing a documentary on Billy the Kid. From the link it appears the take is that he was some kind of Robin Hood character. I suppose this is true in the sense that he robbed from the rich because the poor didn’t have anything worth stealing. I’m not sure what the fascination with vicious murderers and criminals is, especially if they come to a violent end.

Dillinger is another case in point. “I wasn’t such a bad guy as some people said…” I suspect the only reason he wasn’t convicted of killing a police officer was that he tried to shoot it out with the FBI. Or maybe robbing banks during the Depression was a good thing? Real Robin Hood stuff. At least nine movies have been made about him (and for Billy? More than 15.) [How many about Alexander Fleming? Uh, don’t know. Jonas Salk? A couple? It is obviously easier to be known as a killer and bank robber and horse thief than for saving untold millions.]

One of my favorite Charles Bronson movies is From Noon til Three. Part of the attraction for me is how the insignificant can be blown up into legend, how petty crimes become marvelous deeds–through the power of advertising and PR. The rest of the attraction is how much fun the movie is.

Readers/viewers want a look at something other than what they have in their own lives, so it is obvious criminals fits that bill. But why morph the psychotic killer into something lovable? You got me on that.

Dillinger death photo



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