Goodfellas Criminological Analysis

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When applying a criminological theory to popular media, I chose the film Goodfellas- a drama and crime film from 1990 based on a true story. This movie portrays many theories in which we have learned in class, but the one I found to occur numerous times in the movie was that of Rational Choice Theory (RCT). Many laws- such as murder, insurance fraud, assault, and theft- were committed in Goodfellas- along with many others. The men involved in this form of media did anything and everything that was considered to be illegal- which contributes to the theory of rational choice where we analyze why people choose the life of crime based on the benefits outweighing the potential punishment.
Goodfellas is about a young man named Henry who has grown
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Henry was drawn to the success and benefits associated with committing a crime and knew he wanted to be a part of it. He made the “rational choice” of being involved in the same lifestyle of his “family” because of what he would get in return from committing crimes. Wealth, drugs, luxury cars, status and respect were all to gain from this new life. Goodfellas begins with Henry introducing the neighborhood, and mobsters, and makes a statement saying “as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.” Henry then goes on to say that “being a gangster was better than being the President of the United States.” These two statements represent RCT because Henry had pre-mediated plans of becoming a gangster because he saw the benefits it had to offer, and the respect gained from his new lifestyle was better than the of the President- at least in his eyes. The main theme we see in the movie is that of status change and monetary gain. We see the first major status change and respect gain in the movie when Henry commits his first crime by selling cigarettes in the streets and gets arrested. Jimmy- the most feared guy in the neighborhood and mob- came to see Henry after his trial and made the statement that he “broke the cherry” implying that he was now a member, and then everyone congratulated him for his first crime. Henry became highly respected at a young age and had “more money than what he could spend” at just 13 years old. Then, by the age 21 Henry was using his new status, respect and money to get into sold out shows with his girlfriend and soon to be wife. We see another demonstration of status and respect gain when Tommy kills a man in the bar for “busting his balls” because he felt the benefits outweighed the cost. Tommy- one of the other mob members- mentioned