Wednesday, September 17, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 27
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Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on August 28th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 25 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 25

Ins and outlaws


As I write this, a woman believed to be the Central Coast Bandit is in custody.

And I don’t know how to feel about that.

Well, of course I’m glad that someone who's been robbing banks—allegedly!—is no longer on the streets, um, allegedly robbing banks. Taking money is taking money, and it doesn’t make you a hero. Unless you’re Robin Hood, which the Central Coast Bandit isn’t. I don’t think.

But you know what does make you a hero? Having a name and persona that makes people root for you, even if you’re kinda the bad guy. Something about us, as a society, makes us root for the anti-heroes. We love our Jesse Jameses and our Billy the Kids.

Or consider James P. Beckwourth, subject of this week’s Sun cover story, who apparently was known to dabble in horse thievery. We love it! Who cares that it was someone else’s property? This guy was such a character! You’d want to have him over for drinks—but you’d probably want to count all the silverware as he was leaving.

Our modern-day world is no less thrilled by the charismatic criminal. Look at movies like Catch Me If You Can and shows like White Collar. We love Walter White in Breaking Bad. At least we did until he went and—oops! No spoiler alerts here in case you’re not caught up with the show. How about Johnny Depp’s Capt. Jack Sparrow? What a dashing rogue!

Even people who agree that breaking the law is a major deal and would never consider even jaywalking harbor soft spots for the villains who elude capture. It’s like a game. How long can the thief elude justice? How long can he stay one step ahead?

In real life, the subjects of our focus may not be as teeth-gleamingly photogenic or as heart-of-goldingly sympathy inspiring, but they do catch the public’s eye. They even get nicknames like “The Geezer Bandit” or “The Central Coast Bandit.” A journalism colleague of mine explained that the FBI doles out such monikers in order to raise awareness among bank employees in an effort to crowd-source a suspect’s capture.

Sure, I get it.

But the nicknames also create larger-than-life personas more akin to pop culture characters than actual criminals. They’re like celebrities, except they take stuff that’s not theirs. Come to think of it, that’s not so different from everyday Hollywood celebrities. Yeah, the lines get blurred.

So when you see a mug shot of a woman suspected to be the person who’s hit half a dozen local financial institutions—including the CoastHills Federal Credit Union branch in Nipomo in June—part of you cheers for the citizens and law enforcement agents who collectively brought her in, while part of you secretly sighs at the thought of life getting a little less thrilling.

You should admit it. You liked The Dark Knight more for Heath Ledger’s Joker than Christian Bale’s Batman. Because good is boring, right?

That’s horrible. But it seems to be human nature.

At times like this, I’m glad I’m not one of you. Birds are far less complicated.

Except for kiwis. Those things are messed up.

 

The Canary wants to put on a halo and sit on your shoulder to counter that devil you’ve got on the other side. Send comments to canary@santamariasun.com.