Are TV's Crime Dramas Giving Us Too Much Information?
- Tuesday, April 20, 2004
In a world where justice is frighteningly elusive, crime dramas strike a responsive chord. Dedicated police officers spend days and weeks solving just one crime. District attorneys are determined to punish perpetrators. Judges and juries are honest and give fair, impartial verdicts. In the fictional world of television, it doesn’t matter who the victim or the perpetrator is. Everyone is treated equally and justice is done. The DNA reveals the killer, the cops persuade him to confess and the district attorney nails a conviction. All is well in the world, and we can rest in peace.
The problem is, justice is predicated on a clear foundation of right and wrong. Without ‘wrong,’ there is no crime, much less justice. Police shows portray crimes like murder, rape and pedophilia as clearly wrong, because these are moral absolutes we can all safely agree on. Everything else, however, is muddied by the dictates of postmodernity, which often leave us asking ponderous ethical questions.
This can lead to great good. My college philosophy professor always said, “It should be a crime to watch a movie and not discuss it afterwards.” So, if we watch these shows with an analytical mindset, we may well benefit from a healthy discussion afterwards. The problem is, most of us just drift off to sleep.
Far more concerning, however, are the episodes where crime dramas actually cross a clear line – the same line that postmodernity refuses to acknowledge.
“CSI” began as an interesting show which, despite an excess of maimed bodies, focused on science – a draw for many Christians. Sadly, however, the episodes have become increasingly sexual in nature. A recent plot centered on people who dressed up and pretended to be animals, then had anonymous sex with one another. Another show highlighted sadomasochistic fetishes, displaying grisly instruments of suffering and overtly sexual scenes where people tormented one another. Equally, “Law & Order SVU” often deals with the dark underbelly of people’s sexual deviancy.
As Christians, we know that this kind of behavior is not only dysfunctional and broken, but sinful. We also know that, no matter what Hollywood says, it is not the norm. It may be happening in Las Vegas, Miami or New York, but it probably isn’t in most towns. And, even if it is, should we be learning about it, especially in such detail? Is there not, in the words of my husband, “unholy knowledge” that we are commanded not to learn? After all, the one fruit that was forbidden to Adam and Eve was from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
As I watch, denying the urge to turn off the television, I cannot help but wonder if, like my ancestors, I am also partaking of some ungodly fruit that may one day lead to my downfall.
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