For some years now we have seen flourish and prosper an impressive amount of very sophisticated cop shows on television mainly from the United States. Public interest for crime and its narration are not new at all. Gangster movies of the 20s and 30s as well as the success of Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie are there to prove it. What seems new, though is an obvious glamorisation of action and actors through modern techniques of image alteration, fashion and makeup.
Aesthetic of crime
In many series, the crime is presented in the introduction to the episode, very detailed and completely realistic. Very detailed studies are done to make the most authentic crime scene. It works. The viewer feels an immediate and striking terror. Instantly the stream of the narration is set : The world is full of horrors, Evil can occur at any time of a comfortable life and the forces of good are there to clean up this mess and contain it. All teams are in place: doctors, trainers, firefighters, security guards, teamwork is glorified as a safeguard relief. In the center, casual but imperial, arise investigators, inspectors. Jaded but concerned, their professionalism stands out as the singular force of justice, in the heart of fire. Abused, betrayed, horrified by evil, they are the ones who are going to sort through the rubble, avoid the traps and regain hope beyond this hell. We follow them, eager and thirsty in this frantic quest. They are beaten, disillusionned, suffer injustice, but they always get trough, wounded but standing, affected yet triumphant, for their glory and our comfort.
Eternity of Good and Evil
These developments are observable in one minute or in an entire season. Because we sympathize with the characters, were they intractable lawyers, falsely accused, repentant criminals, police scoundrels, the range is infinite. This is the writers and producers’s game. Within a stable perceptual framework – Justice , law, prison, oath of allegiance, sense of honor, belonging to a family, community – resides an infinite number of possibilities: the corrupt cop, the criminal who saves a life, unsuspected lawyer who switches to vice, our perception is subject to all the hopes and all turnovers. This is what makes the addiction, we know that the world is full of vices and we start from the premise that we want to do good, we recognize that we all share a vice within ourselves, awake or not. That’s what the series tell us, tell us or remind us, is that neither vice nor virtue is eternal. A good person may sin and a criminal may act for good. In this they have a very religious aspect. That being said, what I observed personally, is that the crime is demonized, a sort of shadow army that good men struggle to dominate. The ambivalence of Good and Bad is mentioned but not central. The general impression that emerges is that the police, glamorized is the eternal appeal, the ground of Reason. It’s always troubling to me to see over-classy actors speak about horrors and abominations. Is it a strictly aesthetic – a contrast between vice and virtue – or ideological choice – scare the viewer to make him choose the side of Good?
Half asleep and suspension of critical judgment
The very act of watching a fiction, is diving into a half-sleep, abandon the suggested tale and set oneself in a reception-mode. This inter-state condition blurs freewill and suspend critical thinking intermittently between pleasure and displeasure. Impressed or horrified, we are transported to an emotional elsewhere that transforms us forever. We keep a part of this history within us. The accumulation of these television series (many similar formats following each others), the standardization of their chilling aesthetic leads to question their ideological significance. Perfectly executed, are they yet harmless ?
Other questions arise. I challenge you to answer :
Who controls and finance these productions? What about costs?
What political intentions have the creators of these series ? Have they ultimate goals ?
Who can remain infallible as a cop or lawyer? What means choosing this kind of job ?
What personal reasons pursue these cops and lawyers?
What impact have these series on the real world?
Note : Criminals have clearly said they drew their motivations watching films. Example: Redouane Faïd in France clearly stated last year that he had watched the movie « Heat » dozens of times for inspiration for his robberies. Many ideas of concealment, attacks and escapes are present in series and in news broadcasts and surveys.