Overcrowded prisons expanding to no end. Dads who never show up–or only between hiding and sentencing. Single moms in and out of jail. Kids raised by grandparents, three million of them, some because the parents are incarcerated, others just because they can’t be counted on to provide basic food, shelter…
Tuesday, three more Oklahoma kids were taken into state custody—for murder. They killed a man because they were “bored.” How did we get here? Nobody can know for certain, but we all have an idea. I call it “Thug Culture.”
What’s that? It starts with adult-level sarcasm in cartoons, with the idea that teachers are the enemy in elementary school, that learning is something to avoid. It continues with bad attitudes in Disney Channel shows, movies where the thugs look “cooler” than the hero. Continues with fashion inspired by prisons where the inmates aren’t given belts, so their pants start fallng down.
The biggest problem? Our unabashed popular worship of violent criminals. All one has to do is shoot up a school or steal a stack of movie-star clothes and suddenly the WORLD is watching. You get the undivided attention of a nation, plus a movie deal.
As an author, one aspect of thug culture that I’ve rejected is the wholesale worship of the bad guy, plus throw in the degradation of women. That’s something I write to expose. It’s one thing to understand motivations, to get inside the criminal mind, quite another to justify treating women as animals or warping sick sexuality so far that we find ourselves rooting for rapists, killers?
At first, killer perspective was a unique approach, now it truly isn’t. For every deep, thought-provoking literary comment on our society, there are ten shallow, let’s-sell-more-action-figures-with-a-super-cool-bad-guy-outfit sort of flick. Don’t believe me? How many action films spend loads more time planning costumes than dialog. When other authors ask me to read their work, how often is the villain more interesting than the hero? They’ve been taught by movies to make an interesting, cool-looking bad guy. Good guys should look like “everyman” they say. I call that bullshit. (Look at the Batman franchise.)
I believe that our culture has a real shortage of good guys to look up to.
Thug Culture pervades everything. In the movie, ELYSIUM, we’re supposed to believe that the local crime lord suddenly feels a strong desire to save the downtrodden–oh please. Have you met an actual crime lord? Not noble I promise. I use that movie for an example because it does have positives: the allusions to apartheid, the separation of classes in modern society. All noble.
But sorry, the thugs won’t be saving the Earth anytime soon. And you don’t want to see the fate of women when thugs take control, like in Syria or Rwanda.
In our current #1 song, Robin Thicke sings about date rape. Maroon 5 shows ongoing videos of hot, uncommitted sex, but never hungry babies who need a parent, a home, electricity and education.
Over and over, the role of the willing, well-off prostitute is brought up by male writers. Most prostitutes are sex slaves who don’t receive the profits from their “work.” Sorry guys, not many 16 year-old girls enjoy being pounded by fat, middle-aged men, or women.
As I immerse myself back into my next book, I feel more committed than ever to writing a novel about real, but interesting people, dealing with the real affects of crime. And exposing the truths of Thug Culture:
Starting with three million grandkids.