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Aug 10 2017 2:00pm

Tracking the American Bandito

Americans love Robin Hood stories but have produced few of their own.

The thief is among the most charismatic protagonists in American popular culture. From frontier outlaws like Jesse James and Butch Cassidy to Depression-era figures like Bonnie & Clyde and John Dillinger and contemporary figures as diverse as D. B. Cooper, Frank “Catch Me If You Can” Abagnale, and the Bling Ring, many real-life American thieves become folkloric antiheroes, their actual exploits and motivations embellished to fit a more likable narrative. Our fictions are full of charming masters of the heist, modern descendants of the noble burglar like Danny Ocean and Catwoman, the heroes of movies as diverse as The Thomas Crown Affair, Dog Day Afternoon, Three Kings, the Michael Mann masterpieces Thief and Heat, and even computer capers like Hackers and Swordfish. But unlike the outlaw heroes of many other cultures, American popular thieves rarely exhibit any overt politics.

[Silly Americans...]