Why are we so drawn to the con-artists in film and television?
The true story of Catch Me If You Can had us in awe at Frank Abignale’s ability to become anyone - from an airline pilot, to a doctor, to a lawyer.
And who didn’t fall in love with Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting? The catchy tune alone has you hooked.
The show Leverage gives us the full variety of con-artist archetypes - the mastermind, the grifter, the thief, the muscle, and the hacker.
These Hollywood versions of con-artists are compelling, romantic, and a bit inspiring. We watch these Robin Hood-esque heroes pull off impressive feats by using their wits, intelligent planning, and adaptability. We daydream about having equally convincing cunning.
Of course, the real life versions of the folklore is less glamorous. Con-artists are usually forged in difficult and dangerous upbringings. Their charm is a survival technique that turns into delinquent asset. And any glamorous lifestyle they might accumulate dissolves when they take their mugshot.
For example, a career con-artist's reign recently ended with a new orange jumpsuit. William Douglas Street has been called "The Great Imposter." Living a life in a Catch Me If You Can style, Street impersonated individuals from a drycleaner to a Major League baseball player.
He was convincing, but for all the wrong motives.
With that said, there is no denying that a con-artist’s skills are highly valuable. If you take away the schemes, lies, and aliases, what you have left is someone who knows how to set a plan in motion by recruiting and motivating people to take action using advanced communication skills.
Something is wrong when a con-artist knows more about persuasiveness than leaders.
So, what can us moral and ethical folk learn from these deviant, disreputable con-artists? Well, quite a bit, actually. Continue Reading