American Outlaws in Australia

Bruce Tranter, Jed Donoghue

Abstract


An aspect of the diffusion of American popular culture is examined in this research drawing upon national survey data. Measuring Australians’ knowledge of American and Australian outlaws, we found that Jesse James and Billy the Kid are better known in Australia than any of the local outlaws, or bushrangers, with the exception of Ned Kelly. While a relatively large proportion of Australians identified Ned Kelly, Ben Hall, Jesse James and Billy the Kid as outlaws, few identified other Australian ‘outlaws’. Social background and political ideology is associated with greater knowledge of outlaws. Men, baby boomers and their predecessors, those born in Australia or the UK, those with a basic secondary level education and those identifying as left on the political spectrum are the most knowledgeable. This Australian study suggests that outlaws such as Jesse James and Billy the Kid are not just national folk heroes, but recognised globally. Promoted by visual and print media they have transcended their outlaw heritage to represent romanticised notions of freedom, loyalty and the ‘underdog’, regardless of the historical facts surrounding their lives and deaths.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/ijsss.v1i2.158

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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