Why do we watch prison movies?

Why do we watch prison movies? That’s a really good question, thanks for asking me. When I say to someone “yesterday I saw a really good film about a guy who goes to jail and becomes a gangster and kills several inmates”, he will probably say “Why do you watch such dark films? There is already too much violence in the world to watch violent films!”. Horror movies suffer discrimination.

Firstly, I think that people watch prison films because the genre shows a recurring atmosphere in an environment that we are not accustomed with. Indeed, people are not really informed about life in prison. It is like a door behind which all the worst imaginable secrets are hidden. The prison environment is conducive to action and suspense. The writers can imagine all kinds of stories which take place in prison : social stories, war stories, adventure stories, horror stories, erotic stories, anticipation or dystopic stories…

The Stanford Experiment (2015) by Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Secondly, we have to admit that we all have the curiosity to see and watch what we are not supposed or want to see. That is why young people love to watch horror movies or even… pornography. I think that is the same case with prison films. There is a form of catharsis to follow characters evolving in a hostile environment. As for war movies, prison ones show hard human experience which makes us say “oh my god, I would not like to be in his place!”. That kind of film is about the human condition.

Bronson (2008) by Nicolas Winding Refn

Thirdly, prison films may have a militant issue. Watching and showing prison movies to other people could be a way of raising awareness about the conditions of detention. They could be used to broach subjects of (homo)sexuality or women issues in prison.

Taylor Schilling Uzo Aduba
Orange Is The New Black (2013) by Jenji Kohan

One thought on “Why do we watch prison movies?

  1. A very good analysis of this phenomenon. You seem to have hit the nail on the head in our voyeuristic manner to watch the monkeys in cages. It’s not pretty, but sometimes we just have to admit, that we really love this view of (in)humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

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