Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Robert Kolesar


My thesis shows how vigilantism as expressed through the politics of race interacted from the late 1960s until the mid-1980s, serving to support a culture of backlash that drew from the public’s mistrust of government institutions and authorities, and its reactions to crime, class conflict, and racial tensions. Vigilante films served as the battleground where class conflicts were played out; violent backlash was realized; historical wars were refought; cultures and principles clashed; and people cleansed their communities of crime and illegal drug-use. The culture of backlash as portrayed in vigilante films as well as historical events showed how their relationship was mutually reinforcing through the legitimization of on-screen and off-screen vigilantism, which further normalized extralegal activity within American society. Overall, Americans within reality and film who were “left behind” by economic and social changes or fought to keep communities from falling apart organized to defend their neighborhoods against crime, drugs, and urban decay.