The Road Movie Book

By Steven Cohan; Ina Rae Hark | Go to book overview
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On the road with Bonnie and Clyde

Ian Leong, Mike Sell, and Kelly Thomas

Natural Born Killers (1994) boasts a body count - twelve and climbing - linking it to more copycat killings than any other film. Two years after its debut, the film was still making headlines via the lawsuit filed by attorney-turned-Hollywood-player John Grisham against Oliver Stone for product liability in connection with the murder of a cotton-gin worker from Hernando, Mississippi. 1 Grisham's suit is just one component of a larger conservative mobilization against what Presidential candidate Robert Dole has called the “mainstreaming of deviancy” by the Hollywood culture industry. Dole's May, 1995, address to Los Angeles Republicans and Hollywood bigwigs seemed to recognize the interrelated tensions of violence, mass culture, and the crisis of “family values” - and specifically took aim at two postmodern variants on the familiar theme of young, tragic love in “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.” 2 On the first leg of a tour whose goal was the congealing of an increasingly fractured Republican constituency, Dole exhorted his audience to retool the culture industry and return to the “Combining-Good-Citizenship-with-Good-Picture-Making” days when the Disney studios daubed their merry little toy-citizens on the noses of B-52's and Warner Bros, beefed up public confidence in the police. “Ours is not a crusade for censorship, Dole comforted us, “it is a call for good citizenship.”

Good citizenship is certainly lacking in the two films Dole specifically targeted, True Romance (1993) and Natural Born Killers. But there is an irony to Dole's attack. Dole endorsed the moral rectitude of The Lion King (1994), Forrest Gump (1994), and fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger's ultra-violent revision of hightech patriarchy, True Lies (1994), even as he demanded an interdiction of “mindless violence and loveless sex.” Dole's choice of films suggests that violence in defense of the nation and the nuclear family is not only appropriate but good family fun. Indeed, it seems that Dole singled out True Romance and Natural Born Killers for criticism because they posit heterosexual desire as anti-family, crime and


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The Road Movie Book


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