This article, published in Prohibition in the United States, focuses on multiple failures of the Prohibition movement. It offers historical background that contextualizes the time period of The Public Enemy, explaining the rationale behind Prohibition, in addition to its connection to organized crime.
The article mentions that in the months immediately following Prohibition, alcohol consumption in the United States decreased. Yet, demand for beer and liquor soon skyrocketed, and people began clamoring for illegal sources of alcohol. The article explains that new criminal networks were quickly erected to satisfy this increasing demand. For instance, Chicago gangster Al Capone was one of many mob leaders who capitalized on this particular black market, ‘bootlegging’ alcohol to sell to the masses. The widespread activities of Capone’s gang would not have been financially viable without the group’s involvement in illicit alcohol sales. In general, Prohibition is credited with bringing previously marginalized gangs in touch with life in main stream America. As a result of Prohibition, various gangs in urban areas, particularly in cities such as Chicago or New York, rose to prominence, and their names entered the everyday vernacular.
This piece is an important reference for my paper. It offers an objective historical explanation as to why Prohibition allowed gang life in America to thrive. The Public Enemy acts as a microcosm of this change. When Tom Powers and Matt Doyle were children in the pre-Prohibition era, their crimes were petty and seemingly random. However, after Prohibition was passed, gangs took on a more central role in the film. Powers and Doyle were granted important roles in organized crime. Procuring illegal alcohol endowed gangs – and the boys – with a sense of purpose.
Essentially, Prohibition was a drastic social change that thrust Americans into a life of crime. This document, by exhibiting a direct correlation between Prohibition and an increase in crime, reveals changes in America’s social environment that bear responsibility for the boys’ decision to join a gang.
Elkins, Becky, Helms, Lelia B., and Pierson, Christopher T. “Greek-Letter Organizations, Alcohol, and the Courts: A Risky Mix?” Journal of College
Student Development. 2003, American College Personnel Association. University of Pennsylvania. April 2008
Alcohol is obviously a problem in college Greek life. Not only are fraternities known for binge and underage drinking, but over the past few decades they have also brought alcohol to the courts. The article juxtaposes concern for legal matters with concern for the health and progress of students who engage in more alcohol-related activities than the average person. Heavy drinking has immediate and possible indirect consequences, such as unwanted sexual situations, fighting, drunk driving, and so on. These are the cases that lead to legal matters, some of which involve death. Students have gone to court for alcohol-related cases progressively more and more since the early 1980s. However, fraternity and sorority events still prosper because members admit that “partying and drinking [are] important to them.”
Are films such as Animal House affecting this? They certainly exhibit it. Dean Wormer of Faber College enters the Delta house, and the members are caught with alcohol, despite the failed attempt to inconspicuously hide the beers. However, all Dean Wormer can throw at them are inventions such as double secret probation and empty threats. Delta house is a danger to Faber College’s reputation, but there is not enough authority to stop them from downing alcohol at every chance. The article recommends that the universities take action to protect them legally, but to not let this intrude on or dominate over “ethical obligations to teach students to behave responsibly.” This is where Dean Wormer fails and Delta house prevails. Universities learn from these mistakes, which is why modern institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania has programs such as Fling Safe and organizations such as the Vice Provost for University Life.