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Do TV shows and book deals encourage criminal behavior?


Jordan Belfort went to prison for stock market fraud but later wrote a memoir that was adapted into the movie "The Wolf of Wall Street." Today he is a motivational speaker.
Jordan Belfort went to prison for stock market fraud but later wrote a memoir that was adapted into the movie "The Wolf of Wall Street." Today he is a motivational speaker.
Max Zorin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Unless you live totally off the grid, it's tough to avoid the wall-to-wall media coverage of extreme criminal behavior. News outlets race each other for dirty details following a tragedy or scandal, filling their websites or broadcast hours with stories about the evidence found, motives of the criminal and replays of what happened at the crime scene. They also interview the grieving survivors, relatives of the dead and experts on criminal behavior. This can go on for days or weeks. And depending on the circumstances, there can be further wall-to-wall coverage when the jury trial begins for the accused months or years later.

It doesn't end there either. Sometimes the perpetrators release memoirs detailing past crimes that they may or may not have even been busted for. Or they might even get a reality show or movie out of the situation.

Jordan Belfort, who was notoriously immortalized in the film "The Wolf of Wall Street," bounced from 22 months in prison to the red carpet after he sold the rights to his story, which vividly recounted his many crimes, including securities fraud, solicitation of prostitutes and rampant drug use. Belfort was criticized for pocketing at least $1 million for the screen rights when he still owed about $100 million to victims of his financial schemes [source: Child]. Jodi Arias was convicted of killing her lover in the shower and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in 2015. Ever since news of her 2008 crime broke she has enjoyed extensive media coverage and was the sex-kitten subject of the 2013 Lifetime made-for- television movie, "Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret" [source: Kiefer].

People probably aren't motivated to pursue a life of crime in hopes of getting a book deal or a C-level movie. Rather, glorification of criminal behavior is often criticized for making crime seem sexy and giving would-be criminals someone to idolize, or even emulate. So, do these critics have a leg to stand on?


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