This module is a resource for lecturers

Thinking critically through fiction

Movies seek to entertain and inform the audience about a story, incident, or person. Many good movies also hit upon important substantive themes relevant to understanding organized crime. Read the following movie summary (and watch the movie if you have not done so already) and answer the questions that follow to make the organized crime subject matter connections. Please, bear in mind that movies often simplify reality and might perpetuate stereotypes.

The Preppie Connection (2015) - Joseph Castelo, Director

Photo Credit

This movie is based on a true story of a prep school student who smuggled $300 thousand of uncut cocaine into the United States in 1984. The film chronicles the exploits of a group of private school students who ran a drug distribution operation in the early 1980s. The story centres on Toby, the lower-class scholarship student, who uses his street credibility and access to drugs to make friends with the popular kids, eventually allowing him to cultivate a drug trafficking network. Toby gets in far over his head as he leads his friends into the dangerous world of Colombian drug cartels.

Discussion questions

  • Watch the film and/or read a detailed summary of the plot. Draw a network map of the organizations led by Toby and his co-conspirators and associates. Makes sure to reflect on the size, density, and centrality of the enterprise.
  • Was the organization vertically or horizontally organized?
  • How did Toby recruit people to his criminal organization? Were the positions and roles within the organization explicitly defined?
  • How much authority and decision-making power did Toby have? What made him a boss in the organization?
  • How did Toby ensure that members of his criminal organization follow his orders? Did he use violence to discipline the members? Can a criminal organization be managed without trust among its members? What are the stereotypes this film plays with?

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls (2011) - Benjamin Nolot, Director

Nefarious is a documentary about the global sex trade. It provides a good example of the economic basis for organized crime activity. Thousands of women and children around the world are portrayed as expendable pawns in servicing the global demand for illicit sex.

Nefarious is a controversial portrayal of human trafficking because it exposes the sex tourism trade in which men travel to exotic locations to have sex with women and children. The film goes undercover to reveal the plight of those exploited, and uncover the complicity of many around the world who implicitly or explicitly permit this illicit industry to survive and profit. The movie also addresses the sale of women as a cultural practice and the difficulty victims face in escaping exploitive circumstances.

Discussion questions

  • The exploitation of women and children in the sex tourism business most closely fits which of the models discussed in this Module: hierarchical, cultural, or enterprise?
  • If illicit demand is the driver of this exploitation, what might be done to reduce this demand, and reduce the supply of victims at high risk of exploitation?

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