This paper compares what can loosely be defined as the crime film in Irish and Spanish cinema. It outlines how both national cinemas have been characterised by the devaluation of patriarchy as an acceptable representation of power, briefly relating this to wider cultural and political developments in each country. In an Irish context it can be traced back to the disempowerment experienced under colonisation, whilst in Spain its roots lie in the traumatic effects of the Civil war. This paper asserts that this devaluation of patriarchy has rendered problematic the representation of authority within the modern social formation. As previous cultural power structures have been undermined, the cultural unwillingness to positively represent the operation of power has led to a form of moral relativism becoming the defining feature of social relations.
The impact of this on the crime film is clearest in the depiction of the police as either ineffective or absent entirely, thereby providing neither protection to the potential victims of crime, nor a genuine threat to its perpetrators. This is symptomatic of a wider unwillingness to refer to any externally conferred moral authority in order to resolve moral/dramatic conflicts within the narrative. As state, parental, and indeed divine authority have been undermined within the move to modernity, competing value systems must be legitimised within the terms of the world which is represented on screen. This contest for legitimacy is perhaps most interestingly visible within the crime film as it is centrally concerned with the power of the law to sustain a fixed moral order.