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Gangster Lifestyle and the Contemporary Culture

Gangster Lifestyle and the Contemporary Culture

Today, many Europeans are interested in gangster lifestyle. Indeed, this culture has been actively integrated into the U.S. society. Statistics shows that the number of white middle-class gangsters present in America is increasing rapidly. People are now accepting gang cultures due to the fact that contemporary culture romanticizes it. As a result, gang behaviors such as tattooing, graffiti making, watching gangster movies, and listening to gangster music are accepted in today’s society. This paper explores the aspects of contemporary culture that have romanticized gangster way of life.

Aspect of Contemporary Culture Romanticizing Gang Life and Culture

Many behaviors among the youths today glamorize gangster culture and life. Some people do not even know the risks they are exposing themselves to when they try to copy a violent behavior. Many whites are also interested in this culture and have been recruited into such groups. For this reason, the paper presents various aspects which demonstrate that the contemporary society is idealizing the gang culture, ruining the life of many youths.


In Rodriquez’s gangstas, the photograph of three people with tattoos and shaved heads clearly demonstrates that tattooing is a part of the gangster culture (Rodriguez, 2005). In the photograph, the three tattooed people are inspecting their friends to see whether they have tattoos indicating where they live. Therefore, tattooing is an important constituent of public image among the gangstas. It is used to signify a sense of belonging to a particular gang and resistance to the communities that are non-gang.

Today, tattooing is a practice that seems to romanticize gang life and culture. During the World War II, tattooing was associated with gangs, drunkards, and teenage rebellion. However, today it is seen as a fashion trend, especially among the rock sub-cultures (Beeler, 2006). The trend was at its sharpest about 35 years ago and was seen as a movement spread across various social groups. Although it is still considered a marginalized practice in the modern mass culture, many people would like to have tattoos. It is seen as a social marking: if one has inscribed it on the body, he or she is considered to be keeping up with the latest trends.

Movies and Songs about Gang Life

Media has been playing a great part in portraying gang life and culture. Songs and movies watched by the young generation have been used to romanticize gang culture and life. Through the media, modern cultures represent gangsters in an attractive way, thus, romanticizing gang life in movies, songs, videos, and TV shows (Dombrowski, Gischlar, & Mrazik, 2011). For instance, through music videos and obscene lyrics, today’s modern music glamorizes gangster lifestyle with the themes of violence such as murder, stealing, and drug dealing..

The fact that the communities today have accepted this music clearly shows that the culture of today idealizes violent gang life and culture. Media portray the artists involved as popular, influential, and wealthy people. Gang culture has easily been integrated into today’s culture through social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter (Beeler, 2006). Photos, videos, and messages shared through these social media networks have quickly and easily promoted gangs leading to many youth desiring to be engaged in the gangster lifestyle.


Graffiti is a culture associated with gang and hip-hop culture. Gangs usually use the writings on the wall to pass their violent information and attract people to their groups. The gang idea of drawing graffiti has been romanticized by the contemporary culture as a way to decorate walls. Some of these graffiti are present in cites, with the drawings having a strong sexual appeal. Therefore, such drawings may expose children to sexual topics (Beeler, 2006).

Graffiti has also led to the conflicts in the cities as writers compete for wall space. It has been used as a visual territorial right by making paintings of the most popular artists, which sometimes encourages negative tendencies among the youth. Graffiti has for a long time been understood and viewed as drawings of rebellious and violent culture with little regard for the public property (Rodriguez, 2005). However, with the contemporary culture romanticizing it, many youths today have been exposed to gangster life and culture. They are actively practicing it, and many have been killed as they try to come out of gang groups.

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Fashion Codes

Wearing of baggy pants and T-shirts is a fashion associated with gangs and romanticized by the contemporary culture. The modern society is embracing the style of gang members wearing baggy clothes. It should be noted that this look can make one associate a person with gangsters (Dombrowski, Gischlar, &Mrazik, 2011). What is even more alarming is that the gang fashion is not likely to end soon. More and more youths are wearing gang-related clothes and shaving their heads since the habit moved from the ghettos to the cities.

The majority of parents have embraced this look as they allow their children to wear such clothes even when they know the risks related to it. With the changing contemporary culture that has now integrated gang culture, most youths now belong to a generation that invents fashion codes defiance. Therefore, they express this generational identity through these trendy gang fashion codes. What they do not know is that they are inviting the risks related to gangsters such as being encouraged and sometimes forced to join gangster groups.

Use of Discourteous Language

Gangsters are known to use discourteous language when talking to their fellow gang members. Due to exposure to media which shows gang related programs, young children today may use similar language. The program participants often use abusive words, and the youth is copying this behavior when speaking to their peers (Clauss-Ehlers, Serpell, & Weist, 2013). This usage demonstrates that gang ideas are being romanticized in the contemporary culture through allowing today’s youths to speak using discourteous language. Additionally, they are now using nicknames to identify each other, which is also spread among the gangsters.

The Use of Drugs

The excessive use of drugs is associated with gangsters, especially those who are involved in murder crimes. Gangsters-prisoners are also associated with the use of drugs in order to cope with the hardships in the jail (Clauss-Ehlers, Serpell, & Weist, 2013). Unfortunately, alcoholic and substance abuse behaviors are romanticized by the contemporary culture with children together with their parents engaging in drugs as a way to deal with stress and frustrations in their life.

Moreover, schoolchildren, especially high school and college students, attend night parties where they easily access hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Consequently, they become addicts and end up excluded from the school, while some get to rehabilitation centers. These drugs also lead to murder cases, whereby a drug addict under the influence of drugs kills someone due to a conflict or misunderstanding. Such a case is similar to that in Rodriquez’s book, where Joseph photography shows a child being killed at a very young age due to some gangster activities (Rodriguez, 2005).

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The Interest in Gangster Culture

The European middle class individuals have lately been curious about the culture of gangsters. This poses an important question of whether it is harmful or harmless to embrace their lifestyle. In my opinion, this curiosity could be called harmless. The gangsters are people just like others and are entitled to equal rights. The difference between them and the non-gang communities is that most of them are brought up in a violent environment (Rodriguez, 2000). Their social setting with norms that postulate acceptable behaviors is broken. In these circumstances, many common rules that prevent people from doing acts that are socially acceptable have no relevance to these people. Therefore, they respond to traumatizing changes by being rebellious and engaging in criminal activities. A curiosity of modern safe social classes in the lifestyle of more vulnerable groups may be explained by their desire to understand them better and feel themselves in a different environment.

Another reason which explains that the curiosity of these gangs could be harmless is that they only act violently because they have a reason for what they do. Rodriquez uses photographs to show the life of people living in the gang neighborhood. From those photos, it is clear that life is difficult in those neighborhoods, but it is wrong to judge those people. The people in non-gang communities have no idea why the gangsters do what they do. Though I am not justifying their deeds, a possibility to understand those people will grow tolerance in the contemporary well-off society.

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Referring the gangsters as being harmful will be creating a bad image before even understanding them. Allowing these gangs to interact with others may offer a chance to change their perception of violence and criminal activities. All people around the globe are connected, and some are just different because they live in different environments (Rodriguez, 2000). However, the people need to understand them in order to help them. More importantly, the media should not just reflect on criminal deeds, but also look at those who do good deeds so that the others can learn from them.

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Gang ideas and culture such as violence, use of drugs, tattooing, gang-related music and movies, use of discourteous language, and drawing of graffiti have truly been romanticized by the contemporary culture. These ideas have been integrated in the today’s way of living, resulting in deterioration of the moral values. Youths are the most affected group since they are the people who are easily influenced. Their lives and future may by ruined by such behaviors as the use of drugs. Therefore, it is recommended to promote tolerance, provide legal ways of becoming acquainted with external gangster culture, and giving the gangsters more opportunities to lead a better life.