What does this film, based upon the true story of Jesse James’ death, tell us about celebrity, and the lionization of criminals in American popular culture? How does the formation of Robin Hood myths around figures like Jesse James reflect upon America’s image of itself? How did the fact that Missouri was a border state play into this myth making in Southern press of the day? Why did the popular portrayal of Jesse, and his brother Frank underplay their roles in anti-Union terrorism during the war, and savagery in their criminal careers? How do the lives of the criminals in this film illustrate things Plato says about the paranoia of tyrants and narcisistic sociopaths, and the personal consequences of living outside of (or in spite of) morality or legality? How does the use of James’ corpse for profit comment upon the ongoing morally problematic celebration and notoriety of killers in popular culture? How did Brad Pitt’s own celebrity prepare him for playing Jesse James?

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