Media, entertainment, and crime

Prospects and concerns

Authored by: Ray Surette , Rebecca Gardiner-Bess

The Routledge Handbook of International Crime and Justice Studies

Print publication date:  August  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415781787
eBook ISBN: 9780203837146
Adobe ISBN: 9781136868504


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Crime has long been a staple of entertainment media and the popularity of crime and justice-related entertainment is undeniable (Callanan and Rosenberger 2011). Since the nineteenth century, in addition to being the central theme of police, detective, heist, and gangster stories, criminals and their crimes have been popular secondary plot elements in love stories, Westerns, comedies, and dramas. These early media portraits of criminals allowed audiences to identify with the criminals and to savor the danger of crime yet see it ultimately punished (Rafter 2007; see also Leitch 2002). Entertainment crime media is escapism and in the entertainment world of crime and justice, you will see impossible crimes, fights, and adventures by people with abilities that no ordinary human possess. The entertainment products of the media are best thought of as play, and crime-and-justice stories have accounted for about one-fourth of all entertainment output (Reiner 2002: 289). Their popularity has continued into the twenty-first century where of the top 40 shows in 2004–2005, one-third were centered on crime (Phillips and Frost 2012; see also Dowler and Zawilski 2007). As crime and justice entertainment has expanded, social effects were noted and social concerns were raised (Surette 2011). Parelleling the popularity of media crime content, new media technologies have expanded access to crime content. This is not a phenomenon limited to the United States, the advancement of media technologies today provides access to crime entertainment content in remote parts of the world with a click on a device (see also Allen 2000; Winston 2002; Pfeiffer et al. 2006; Wardle 2006; Curran et al. 2009). Driving this expansion has been media corporate needs for profitable content (Beale 2006). As a historically consistent source of profit, crime and criminal justice surpasses other topics and remains a media stable (Klite et al. 1997; McCall 2007). In addition, global access causes an increased level of concern among criminal justice researchers, policy-makers, governments, and the public.

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