Locked up with Pop Culture
Scene & Heard looks at how life behind bars, including the occasional prison rodeo, has been featured in American pop culture for the past 50 years.
“Jailhouse Rock” (1957)
In “Jailhouse Rock,” Elvis Presley plays Vince Everett, one of his most iconic roles in a career littered with memorable performances.
After being locked away for manslaughter, Vince sways his hips through his prison sentence, only to emerge a teenage rock superstar. The film is regarded as a classic and is known for featuring the “Jailhouse Rock” musical sequence.
“Stir Crazy” (1980)
The second and most successful pairing of funnymen Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, “Stir Crazy” is a hilarious send-up of the prison lifestyle.
After being wrongfully sentenced to prison for 125 years, Wilder and Pryor satirize prison etiquette, get wrapped up in the warden’s shoddily run prison rodeo and plan their escape from incarceration.
“Prison Break” (2005-2009)
While the series “Prison Break” ended its run on television with a whimper, there is no denying that it was a first-rate action series in the vein of fellow Fox program “24” when it was in its prime.
A young man, played by Wentworth Miller, is sent to death row for a crime he didn’t commit. His brother deliberately has himself sentenced to the same prison in order to help him break out.
Many fans cite the actual prison break as the moment the show started going downhill, making the plot too convoluted.
“Hard Times” (2009-Current)
One of the most popular shows on the National Geographic Channel, “Hard Times” is a series that chronicles the lives of various prison inmates inside Georgia’s paramilitary correctional system.
“Come here one time, you don’t want to come here no more,” Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison officer Lawrence Moore said on the show. After seeing the hardships of prison life on display in “Hard Times,” chances are viewers will agree.
Coming from producer J.J. Abrams, it’s no surprise that “Alcatraz” looks to be another mystifying television program from the acclaimed producer.
All that is known about the show’s plot is that it follows a group of federal agents searching for inmates of the famous prison who disappeared from their cells 30 years ago and have reappeared.
The show’s pilot is currently in production.