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Criminal to celebrity: Outlaws in popular culture

3 FEBRUARY 2004

 

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The transformation of outlaw heroes into cultural icons through film, folklore, music and literature goes under the spotlight during an international conference at the National Museum of Australia later this week.

Leading scholars, writers, filmmakers, curators and criminologists will examine how outlaws including Robin Hood and Ned Kelly became legends - and why we're still obsessed with them today.

Representing Outlaws: Bushrangers, Rebels and Revolutionaries in Popular Culture opens on 5 February with the first Australian screening of the controversial Bruce Beresford film, And Starring Pancho Villa As Himself.

MEDIA ARE INVITED TO ATTEND MORNING TEA IN THE MUSEUM'S HALL, 10.30AM, FRIDAY, 6 FEBRUARY AND MEET THE KEY SPEAKERS.

Robin Hood expert Professor Stephen Knight from Cardiff University will examine the world's obsession with outlaws and their similarities across culture, with the birth of the noble robber. He will be joined by Professor Graham Seal from Curtin University, a prolific writer on bushranger legends, who is also consultant to the Museum's current Outlawed! exhibition.

Film scholar Deborah Carmichael from Oklahoma State University, an authority on the portrayal of America's Wild West, will consider how outlaw films reveal broader cultural preoccupations and challenge viewers to question the validity of outlaws as heroes.

Other areas up for discussion include:

  • Outlaws in Literature with Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje (The Collected Works of Billy the Kid) via video from Canada and Jackie French (Dancing with Ben Hall);
  • Selling Ned Kelly how this national icon and cop killer become such big business with historian Ian Jones, performer Mary Kenneally and producer Nelson Woss (Ned Kelly, 2003);
  • A Hero on our Conscience the ethics of making criminals into cultural icons with writer and director Andrew Dominik (Chopper) and police historian Dr Robert Haldane.

The three-day conference takes up themes from the National Museum's major travelling exhibition, Outlawed!, presented by Lockwood and on show in Canberra until 26 April. The exhibition travels to Melbourne later this year.

The conference is open to the public, with bookings on 02 6281 6624.

For images, interviews or a full program please contact Public Affairs Director Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or m.portus@nma.gov.au