Matthew Thompkins, a pimp who operated a sophisticated prostitution ring out of several cities, was sentenced last month to 23 years in prison. According to the “Philadelphia Inquirer”, Thompkins agreed to forfeit four homes, eight vehicles and $750,000 he acquired by sending women – and even underaged girls – out to sell their bodies.
But what was more shocking was the two trophies the police found in Thompkins’ home, proclaiming him “Pimp of the Year.” The trophies were given to him at the “Player’s Ball,” an annual gathering of pimps. If the awards weren’t so disgusting, they might be funny. But these trophies can’t come as a surprise to a society that turns its social deviants into heroes, mostly through films.
It’s been noted before that the Italian Mafia has been romanticized in film and television.
Two of the most beloved and highly-regarded films in American cinema are Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” and “The Godfather, Part II”. At the same time, one of the most popular cable televisions shows today is “The Sopranos,” now in its sixth and final season. Both mediums show conflicted mob bosses who question the morality of their occupations. Regardless of how they feel about their occupations, they still do it and we still watch.
We don’t find it too difficult to overlook their crimes, whether they are stealing, selling drugs, beating someone half to death or putting a bullet in someone’s head. It’s just Hollywood. Regardless of the harm they do in films and TV shows, Mafia gangsters are still a popular and beloved genre among American viewers.
On the more comedic side is the newer genre featuring thieves who are often cunning,
comical and armed with a group of talented
members. Danny Ocean, of “Ocean’s 11” and “Ocean’s 12”, and his gang plan heists and may have their issues, but they get their money in the end, and Danny gets the girl.
Charlie Croker of “The Italian Job” works with his crew to retrieve the gold stolen from him (which he stole first), and to avenge the death of his mentor. Of course, Charlie gets both, along with his mentor’s daughter.
Like traditional heroes, they get the girl in the end, but they also get to keep what they stole. And, these thieves are so popular and lucrative at the box office that we will see Danny for a third time this June in “Ocean’s 13,” and Charlie, also a third time (the 2003 film is a remake) in 2008’s “The Brazilian Job”.Even if we aren’t particularly offended by mobsters and thieves, there are always the assassins that become our heroes in films like “Assassins” and “The Matador”.
In “Assassins”, Sylvester Stallone’s character competes against that of fellow hitman Antonio Banderas. After killing his younger opponent, Stallone walks away with Julianne Moore. This professional murderer has just been turned into a traditional
hero. And we are able to overlook his decades of slaughter to cheer for him at the end.
Some will argue that the assassins stopped killing people, the thieves don’t physically hurt anybody and Mafia members often end up dead or in FBI custody, but what about the pimp of the 2005 film “Hustle and Flow” Djay, a Memphis pimp, records what he hopes to be a hit hip-hop track, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”. At the end of the film, he’s in jail for 11 months, but his song is on the radio. Regardless, he is still a pimp. Djay clearly ends up as the hero of the film, which received critical acclaim and awards. Society plainly embraced this film, and with it, the type of person that Djay represents.
Society condones many of these social deviants. It’s not surprising that pimps are actually proud of what they do. This isn’t to say that these films are to blame for pimping. That would be ludicrous.
Rather, the films are the reflection of a society that consents to criminal behavior.
Ashley Helaudais can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.