Bonnie and Clyde Went on a Crime Spree for Completely Self-Serving, Cowardly Reasons
Arthur Penn’s film paints a picture of Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow and other members of the Barrow gang as having naively stumbled into a life of crime after deciding to become a modern-day Robin Hood and Maid Marian. They wanted, in other words, to steal from the banks to give money back to the farmers whose lands had been seized in foreclosures.
Needless to say, this scenario is absolute nonsense, a complete fairy tale. There were three specific reasons why Bonnie and Clyde went on a crime spree, all completely selfish and not one having to do with any social awareness.
First, let’s talk about Clyde. After being holed up for two years in prison, Clyde was determined to avenge himself against his former place of incarceration. So, as soon as he got out in 1932, he embarked on a grand scheme to go back and raid the prison and free as many inmates as possible. He then rounded up a few accomplices–which included a prison buddy, Ralph Fults–to start hitting places for cash, weapons and ammo. However, things took a left turn when he and his crew became wanted for murder in the first of a number of deaths, which included two police officers and a businessman, John N. Bucher.
Everyone had the option to turn themselves in or allow themselves to be captured peacefully at any time, which is exactly what all of Clyde’s accomplices did at some point or the other. However, Clyde decided that he would never be taken alive, knowing full well that he’d be up for the death penalty. What resulted was almost two years of Clyde going on the run, robbing various places for supplies to survive on the road as long as possible without getting ambushed or captured.
Bonnie had joined Clyde for a life of crime for completely self-serving reasons as well. After her husband ended up in prison, she became fascinated with gangsters and the criminal underworld. Not only did she hungrily read crime and detective magazines, she tried learning gangster lingo as much as possible, which resulted in a poem she wrote called “Suicide Sal,” in which she seemed to be using it to practice newly-learned underworld terms like “on the spot” and “moll.”
Also, at the time, Great Depression gangsters like John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd were becoming celebrities in the press. Bonnie–who had dreamed of becoming famous–joined Clyde in a misguided attempt to achieve fame. When her plans backfired (she wound up being wanted for murder), she nevertheless was so wrapped up in this narcissistic desire to be remembered by the public that she wrote a poem, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde, in a last-ditch attempt to spin herself and Clyde as a legendary outlaw couple.
Bottom line, Bonnie and Clyde became outlaws to survive on the run from the police, to collect supplies for a prison break, and to achieve fame. That was it. They didn’t care about making a political statement about anything or helping anyone other than themselves. That was a lie.
Speaking of which–