Bonnie & Clyde, the special two part miniseries which aired on three networks (Lifetime, A&E and History), stole 9.8 million viewers for its first installment. If you subscribe to the theory that every generation gets the version of Bonnie and Clyde they deserve, then the 2013 edition looked frighteningly familiar.
Our version of the famous criminal pair looked less like old time gangsters and more like a reality TV couple. Think of them as a Depression-era Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
The driving force behind the newest adaptation of Bonnie & Clyde isn’t really the money, or the thieving, or even the occasional murder. It’s not about breaking free from the bonds of society, the way the version starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway reflected the turbulence and anti-authority mindset of the late 1960s.
Like Kimye, this version of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are all about fame. Bonnie dreams about being famous, and she’s willing to get there at any cost. In the 1930s Bonnie got there with tommy guns and cigars, while in 2013 Kim Kardashian gets there with sex tapes and reality shows. Clyde Barrow, portrayed in this version more like Bonnie’s hapless errand boy, has a talent for crime, but perhaps not Bonnie’s hunger for the notoriety it entailed.
The message of the miniseries is about the quest for fame at any cost, a theme more prevalent in today’s society than ever. Kim Kardashian is usually the first example when we talk about people who are famous for being famous, not for having any actual skill. Bonnie Parker coveted the limelight, and she was willing to kill to put herself on center stage.
Just look at the way Bonnie and Clyde posed for photographs they sent to newspapers and compare it to the absolutely ridiculous professional photoshoot the Kardashians call their family Christmas card. The more things change, the more they stay exactly the same.
Back in the '30s Bonnie Parker wrote poetry and sent it in to newspapers, including a verse foretelling the pair’s own death:
“Some day they'll go down together;
And they'll bury them side by side;
To few it'll be grief
To the law a relief
But it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.”
It might sound a little grandiose, but at least it was in verse. Today celebrities don’t have to compose a whole poem, they only need 140 characters to reach millions of people from around the world.
The Bonnie & Clyde miniseries might have focused on Bonnie’s quest for fame and stardom because it’s something modern audiences readily understand. When Holiday Grainger’s Bonnie mouths along to her own heartless words said moments after shooting a man in the head, she’s not filled with remorse, but with the elation that she’s made the pre-movie newsreel.
The idea that there’s no such thing as bad publicity is a concept modern audiences understand well. Celebrities can act in hideous ways and still avoid jail time and retain fans. The famous occupy their own special stratosphere, one Bonnie Parker dreamed of entering.
Celebrity couples like Kimye are as obsessed with fame as Bonnie and Clyde ever were. If the recent miniseries had one lesson, it’s that some people are willing to pay any price for a piece of the limelight.
What do you think? Did you think the recent miniseries portrayed Bonnie and Clyde as fame whores? Share in the comments!