CSI-ed to Death

by S.C. Torrington on November 27, 2009

Turkey CSI cropI faithfully watched the TV series CSI for the first few years. Forensic Files with wisecracks and cleavage. But by the time the show spawned to Miami and NYC, I was over it.

Last night, however, post-Thanksgiving feast, I was desperate for video wallpaper. I guess programmers figured everyone in America’s on the nod by nine, because pickin’s were slim.

So I settled on a CSI episode, “The Grave Shift,” the first day on the job for Dr. Langston (Laurence Fishburne). One of many “put the new guy on the spot” scenes involved the doctor helping to lift (“with your legs”) the charred body of an arson (soon-to-be-ruled murder) victim. As he lifts, part of the dead man’s crispy shoulder skin cracks off into the good doctor’s hand—like an overcooked turkey drumstick. He hands off the black chunk to Nick. [Insert Laugh Track Here.]

I hear complaints about the desensitizing of children to murder, death and destruction via those dreaded “video games.” Perhaps that condemnation comes from parents who have never actually watched/played Left 4 Dead, Halo or the classic GTA series. Personally, it requires way too many hand/eye/fine-motor skills for me. But I’ve watched Morgan play for hours. And, yeah, those games are filled with murder, death and destruction. But, as my 15 year old always reassures me, the operative word in that sentence is “games.”

Funny, of all the forensic-related programs I’ve seen, the most respectful treatment of The Dead (real or prop) I’ve witnessed has been on Dr. G: Medical Examiner. There the human body is blurred but splayed open like a vivisected bullfrog. Yet that person is still referred to by name with reverence for the life lost.

I mean, when a missing child is a beautiful little angel who everyone’s praying is reported as a discarded body discovered by cadaver dogs the next day, the syntax changes. “Angel” becomes “It.” That instantaneous dehumanization upon death feels like a far greater dis than simply blowing off the head of a CGI hooker.

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