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Published on June 9th, 2014 | by Drew G.


Why People Rooted for Colton Harris-Moore [PART 1 of 3]

Over the next few posts we will be exploring 10 reasons why the story of Colton Harris-Moore (AKA the Barefoot Bandit) resonated so strongly with the public.

Cessna enters spinfall Fly Colt FlyThe incredible tale of Colton Harris-Moore became a very controversial ongoing news story. For some it was a tale of a kid from the wrong side of the tracks pursuing an impossible dream; for others it was an embarrassing portrait of social disfunction and an appalling example of media exploitation. For every online commenter holding the position that is wrong to glorify outlaws through the media another commenter found empathy and inspiration.

The romance of rebellion and the outlaw’s open road has always had a special place in our culture.  In the realm of popular entertainment, the “True Crime” genre is king. Anti-heroes make excellent protagonists in books, movies, and television, especially on the nightly news.  The most notorious criminals in our collective mythology, like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, and D.B. Cooper, share commonalities that separate their stories from those of everyday criminals.

Colton Harris-Moore became famous for many of the same reasons as outlaws of the past. He had all the ingredients. The public interest in “the Barefoot Bandit” grew with each audacious crime and every expensive failed manhunt.

Colt jumps from youth detention facility window Fly Colt FlyAfter slipping out of a halfway house in the summer of 2008, Colton began a burglary spree and quickly captured the attention of his hometown of Camano Island, Washington. The narrative unfolded serially in the news. Colt’s image became inescapable in the Seattle area.  Colton’s tale of misadventures went viral after he stole his third plane. Fan websites and social media became platformsto celebrate the young fugitive’s flagrant disregard for authority. Fans began creating and posting tribute art and Youtube ballads. There was a surge of excitement across the web about the boy who taught himself to fly. Within days Colton Harris-Moore had his own Fan Club and a line of t-shirts designed in his honour.

coltOutlaw folk heroes like Colton Harris-Moore represent the every man, the underdog, the individual facing insurmountable odds.  To resonate with the public and rise to the status of legend, they have to be empathetic and mysterious, and courageous or crazy or both.  They also need to have a few incredible feats under their belts; such as prison escapes, brazen bank robberies, or stealing airplanes.

colton moore fan club1.) Tough Times: Like outlaws of the Great Depression, Colton Harris-Moore was on the run during a time of economic strife.  2008 saw the middle class decline and the poor get poorer while the mega corporations and the super rich just got super richer.  For some it was hard to read about the fat cat bailouts and then get agitated about some poor kid breaking into rich people’s vacation houses and playing with their toys.  Through this lens it was easy to see Colt as a non-violent prankster sticking it to “the Man”.

2.) Incredible Feats: Stealing 5 airplanes within a year and a half is a bizarre world record that Colt will likely keep for some time.  Surviving 5 crash landings without a flying lesson is, most would agree, incredible.

Stay tuned to the Fly Colt Fly Blog for Why People Rooted for Colton Harris-Moore [PART 2 of 3]

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