Ruthless Renegade or Traumatized Teen? Meet Billy the Kid on American Experience, January 10
It was love that killed “The Kid,” indirectly maybe, but it was love just the same.
On Tuesday, January 10, 2012, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern (check local listings), American Experience (PBS) presents Billy the Kid. America loves her outlaws, and one of the most enduring legends is Billy the Kid, a young man shot down at the age of 21, who had begun his criminal career when he was 15 years old, following the death of his mother and abandonment by his stepfather.
Perhaps because of his sheer bravado, Henry McCarty (aka William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid) is etched into our national consciousness as a daring desperado, although his crimes—horse theft, robbery, murder—aren’t deeds we value particularly. In providing this portrait of “The Kid,” Billy the Kid sheds light on corrupt lawmen, lying politicians, and fraudulent big business—things with which we are still plagued. Maybe it is this connection that makes us so sympathetic to “The Kid.”
In tracing his history, Billy the Kid presents a surprising portrait of a bright young man, living in New Mexico with his mother and assimilating into the Latino culture that surrounded him. When he was abandoned, criminal activities provided him with a living. Being bullied in a barroom incident, “The Kid” killed a man, and thus began his notoriety.
Archival photographs, historic re-enactment, and the participation of historians, writers, professors, and a former New Mexico governor contribute to this engaging hour that dispels some of the legend and illuminates the factual biography of Billy the Kid.
Billy the Kid kicks off “a month-long salute to the West that also includes the premiere of Custer’s Last Stand (January 17) and encore broadcasts of Wyatt Earp, Geronimo, Annie Oakley and Jesse James.” Interestingly, the scholars who participated in Billy the Kid seem as awe-struck by “The Kid” as those of us who were not so intimately familiar with his history.