Con Artists

Media by Adam on 2009-04-15 08:06

What’s the fascination with con artists, such that they are glamourized in popular media like Ocean’s 11, Matchstick Men, 21, and Hustle? I certainly enjoy a good heist flick, so I had to do a little analysis.

I think it’s that con artists - at least, the Hollywood kind - combine so many traits that we all seek in ourselves. To be successful, they must be clever and charismatic. They have a plan, but also think on their feet when the plan is inevitably derailed by unforseen complications. Most of all, they display unwavering self-confidence and poise, brazenly walking into places they aren’t supposed to be, acting as if they belong there. All told, they make the perfect anti-hero for modern audiences.

Real con artists, by contrast, are despicable criminals that prey on hopes and fears of people in their moments of weakness. The Nigerian scams are perhaps the biggest cons of our time, cheating people of hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

In the movies, they make a great effort to show that the victim of the scam is actually a nasty person themselves, and that the con artists are relieving them of ill-gotten gains. Thus, the con artists provide a sort of vigilante justice, like Robin Hood minus the goody-two-shoes.

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