Criminal acts change our lives with ever-increasing security measures, and crime dramas are highly successful—throughout the history of mass media. What can we learn about our culture, our beliefs, and ourselves as we look at “bad guys” and those who bring them to justice? Are there laws that cannot be broken?
The above video included some great ones, and we came up with many more! Listen now! and learn!
Malayna’s pre-show notes:
Talking about cyber security with a volunteer at church, they mentioned that the steps we take will only work until another criminal figures out a way around them. And I thought that hackers and the like are don’t accept social boundaries, looking for ways around them. And are people who already think outside the box. They push our boundaries. So there’s something positive about criminals!
EW Oscar special double issue – Oscar nominations by character profession – “It’s better to be bad” – Lawbreakers steal more nods than cops and detectives combined. But good guys are more likely to win. 69 nominations over 87 years, 11 wins. (Crime fighters were only nominated 16 times, but had 7 wins.)
From Allison Leotta:
http://allisonleotta.com/2012/06/love-tv-crime-dramas-hate/ – 17 June, 2012
For twelve years, Allison Leotta was a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. … she now writes legal thrillers, for which she has been dubbed “the female John Grisham.” Her goal is for John Grisham to be dubbed “the male Allison Leotta.”
Allison is also a contributor to the Huffington Post, where she reality-checks TV crime dramas like Law & Order: SVU. Her own blog, The Prime-Time Crime Review, was named one of the best legal blogs in America by the American Bar Association. Allison has provided legal commentary for outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and Reuters TV. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Mystery Writers of America.
A graduate of Michigan State University and Harvard Law School, Allison lives outside of Washington, D.C., with her husband, Michael Leotta, and their two sons.
Now that I write about crimes instead of prosecuting them, I’ve been wondering: why are TV crime dramas so addictive? Why are we fascinated with them?
WHY WE LOVE TV CRIME DRAMA
We love TV crime dramas because they play on (and relieve) our FEAR.
I think there’s a primal fear we all have, rooted deep in our lizard brains.We need to see good triumph over the bad in the world. We want to know society will stop those darker impulses. The murderer will be caught, the criminals will be held responsible. We want to see justice.
Crime dramas channel our ANGER.
There’s a famous saying: Bad men do what good men dream.
There’s a need to explore the dark side of our nature, to figure out what could make us so angry that we’d break from the restraints of civilized society, years of our mothers telling us to treat others the way we want to be treated. We wonder what the consequences would be. We both fantasize about this and fear this.
They express our LOVE.
Many of the best crime stories are also love stories. At the heart of many murder mysteries is the intersection of love and hate. Murder is often about intense emotions, and nothing makes emotions more intense than interacting with the people closest to you. The first story in the Bible is about Adam and Eve, and in many ways it’s a love story. And yet it wasn’t long before we heard about the first murder: brothers Cain and Abel.
Often, the killer is someone very close to the victim: a spouse, lover, sibling, relative, or friend.
As a prosecutor of sex crimes and domestic violence in D.C. I saw this all the time. It inspired my first book, Law of Attraction. We would do anything to protect the ones we love. Or we want to kill them.
The best crime dramas have great CHARACTERS.
Of course, at the heart of any great detective story are wonderful characters.
Heroes: someone who will right the wrongs, who won’t let us down. Men and women with a deep commitment to justice, to finding the truth.
Villains: someone worthy of our hero’s attention, who could really screw up the world if he gets away with his evil plan. But these heroes and villains can’t be one-dimensional.
What we really love are complicated characters. Flawed heroes. Appealing villains. Here are a few of my favorite.
- Sherlock Holmes – We all love his amazing powers of deduction, his dedication, his intelligence. But he’s prone to extreme isolation and intense distrust of women, and he habitually uses cocaine and morphine.
In recent years, we’ve seen the development of the Antihero at the center of a crime drama:
- Dexter – This is dark vigilante justice.
- Walter White / Breaking Bad – After learning he has cancer, a high school chemistry teacher turns to using his expertise in chemistry to provide a legacy for his family – by producing the world’s highest quality crystal meth.
Crime dramas TEACH us.
The best crime dramas teach us about how our criminal justice system works — and how it doesn’t. They show us what the legal process is really like, the rules we’re all operating under. And they give us a glimpse of modern technology and know-how.
- The Wire – This is the most realistic TV crime drama. It covered crime in Baltimore, especially the drug trade, and the techniques the police used to fight it. The show was so realistic, it was reported that criminals watched it to get tips on avoiding police detection.
- Criminal Minds – An elite group of psychological profilers analyze the nation’s most dangerous criminal minds in an effort to anticipate their next moves before they strike again.
- Bones – Solving crimes using forensic science, especially cold cases, where the main evidence is the bones of the victim.
- Law & Order: SVU – SVU is great at doing ripped-from-the-headlines cases, and often shines a light on dark subjects. The episodes get people talking about taboo subjects, and may encourage other victims of similar crimes to come forward.
- CSI – An elite team of police forensic evidence experts work their cases in Las Vegas, employing unbelievable science. I say unbelievable in the most literal sense. This is one of the most problematic shows, from my perspective as a prosecutor. More on that later.
TV crime dramas are FUN.
SVU had episodes last season featuring gypsy encampments, body modification, and vigilante justice doled out by regular Joes wearing superhero costumes. ..a lot more interesting than some of the real day-to-day work of prosecutors…
I HATE THEM When they’re fake.
You won’t get fingerprints off that gun.
Police stations don’t have huge plasma screen TVs
The bad guy will never confess with his lawyer sitting right there.
Women may be drawn to ‘bad boys’, who demonstrate confidence, stubbornness, and risk-taking tendencies.
“The world needs villains so there can be heroes,” claims Netflix promotion for the BBC show “Happy Valley.” Can that be true? Does the world really need villainy or can heroism exist apart from it?
Why Do Supervillains Fascinate Us? A Psychological Perspective
By Travis Langley 07.27.12
From a psychological perspective, views vary on what drives our enduring interest in superhuman bad guys.
Shadow confrontation: Psychiatrist Carl Jung believed we need to confront and understand our own hidden nature to grow as human beings. Healthy confrontation with our shadow selves can unearth new strengths (e.g., Bruce Wayne creating his Dark Knight persona to fight crime), whereas unhealthy attempts at confrontation may involve dwelling on or unleashing the worst parts of ourselves (as the Joker tries to get Batman and Harvey Dent to do in The Dark Knight).
Wish fulfillment: Sigmund Freud viewed human nature as inherently antisocial, biologically driven by the undisciplined id’s pleasure principle to get what we want when we want it — born to be bad but held back by society. Even if the psyche fully develops its ego (source of self-control) and superego (conscience), Freudians say the id still dwells underneath, and it wishes for many selfish things — so it would love to be supervillainous.
Hierarchy of needs: Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow held that people who haven’t met their most basic needs will have difficulty maturing. If starved for food, you’re unlikely to feel secure. If starved for love and companionship, you’ll have trouble building self-esteem. People who dwell on their deficits may envy and resent others who have more than they do. Some people who are unable to overcome social shortcomings fantasize about obtaining any means, good or bad, to satisfy every need and greed.
Conditioning: Ivan Pavlov would say we can learn to associate supervillains with other things we value — like entertainment, strength, freedom or the heroes themselves. Behaviorist B.F. Skinner would likely argue that we can find it reinforcing to watch or read about supervillains, but without knowing what’s reinforcing about them, that’s a bit like saying it’s rewarding because it’s rewarding.
Our Motivations for Seeking Out Supervillains
Throughout history, humans have been captivated by stories of heroes facing off against superhuman foes. But what specific rewards, needs, wishes and dark dreams do supervillains satisfy?
Click the link above for the entire article — it rocks!
Better villain than victim
Better villain equals better hero
Facing our fears
Exploring the unknown
From TV Tropes.org
The bad guys. The mad scientists, the cruel executives, the evil witches and wizards, the corrupt politicians, the mortal aspects of pure evil, and, more often than not, the people (or otherwise) that instigate the conflict and the story.
Despite how one is supposed to cheer for the hero to succeed, there has always been a long standing interest in the villains. Some are renowned for their intelligence and cunning Evil Plan, others are awe-inspiring with simply how evil they can be, and yet others are respected because of their determination. No matter how many times the hero kicks in the door and stops their plans, they’re always back at it soon enough, with another dark scheme to further their evil goals. On the other hand, not all villains can achieve that secret admiration.
It is said a hero is only as good as their enemies. Thus, a good story has to have a well-written villain, somebody that earns respect. After all, what is a hero without a villain to challenge them?
What We Can Learn from Walter White — and TV’s Other Bad Men
By Carly Milne for ESQUIRE on August 27, 2013
Back in the day when there were only three networks and you had to get up to turn the channel, TV’s manly men were a far different breed. Male virtues were often espoused through heroes saving the day in Wild West tales, saving the world as a covert super spy, or sometimes just saving baby birds in Mayberry. But as TV has evolved, so too have the characters from whom we’ve been learning lessons of masculinity.
Probably the most blatant example of this shift in consciousness comes from Breaking Bad, home of Bryan Cranston’s masterful performance as Walter White — a man who turns to cooking meth to support his family when it’s suspected he won’t live through his cancer diagnosis.
Walt was once a dedicated family man who was determined to support his dependents — even if it meant becoming a drug kingpin.
- THE MAN: Sterling Archer from Archer
- THE LESSON: The importance of self-care.
- Sterling Archer does is what so few in TV land do — puts his needs first to take care of himself so that he’s capable of saving the world while everyone else is focused on each other’s drama.
- THE MAN: Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy
- THE LESSON: Making amoral decisions for moral reasons.
- THE MAN: Cullen Bohannon from Hell on Wheels (AMC Civil War drama)
- THE LESSON: Stand your ground, come hell or high water.