What is the cultural significance of the film Bonnie and Clyde?
Two of the major impacts that Bonnie and Clyde had on film and culture were: its use of a strong, independent female lead; its willingness to show images and consequences of brutal violence.
Faye Dunaway, playing Bonnie, made a powerful impact with her portrayal of a woman miserable in her home life and enamored with what she feels is the exciting life of a criminal. Bonnie goes with Clyde against his wishes at first, changing his random crimes into an organized job. It is Bonnie's influence that alters Clyde, who would have continued his crimes without a purpose. In this manner, Bonnie's actions are the impetus for the story itself, and instead of acting as a token female to be rescued or married, she takes the lead in many of their crimes.
As the film shifts in tone from humorous to serious, violence is addressed as a central part of the story. The character Buck suffers a brain injury and remains on screen until his death, with all the characters affected; violence is seen to have real consequences. The famous ending, with its long death scene and slow-motion focus on Bonnie and Clyde's bullet-riddled bodies, show both society's slow acceptance of violence as entertainment and the human consequences of being shot. By not shying away from realistically depicting their deaths, the films avoids glamorizing the criminal characters as other films had in the past.
One of the most striking things about the film Bonnie and Clyde is the way it shows how mass-produced automobiles were changing the ways in which both criminals and law enforcement officials operated. A gang could commit a robbery and be many miles away before the police ever got to the scene of the crime. This was not only the case with Clyde Barrow's gang but with John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and all the notorious gangsters of the day. Cars were easy to steal by hot wiring them. The auto makers had to invent new devices to make theft harder. The police had to invent new methods and new technology, including two-way radio, for chasing criminals. It is significant that in the movie, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow begin their crime spree in a car and end up being killed in an ambush in another car. Automobiles changed the face of America and are continuing to do so to this day. In 2012 there were 34,000 motor vehicle deaths in the United States, in spite of the many safety devices mandated in recent years.