I’m a huge Law & Order fan.
Criminal Intent, Special Victims Unit, the original Law & Order: you name it, I’ll watch it. If there’s a marathon playing, it’ll own my attention for the next several hours.
My idea of a crisis is when several networks show episodes at the same time.
After consuming dozens of episodes from each series, I realized something: much of what I “know” about the legal system is based on shows like Law & Order and CSI.
There was a time when I studied criminal law in college and planned on becoming a lawyer; I’m no stranger to the theoretical application of the law and the powers of the executive and judicial branches of our government.
However, outside of what I read in newspapers or, again, watch on television, I have very little contact with our court system, the police, or crime scenes.
I’m guessing the same applies to the majority of my fellow bloggers.
I wonder how these shows have painted our perceptions of our legal system. They’re so believable in many ways, aren’t they? The piercing interrogations, the fleshed out detectives and prosecutors, the hard evidence the diligent forensic scientists uncover: it all seems so plausible. That’s how it’s really done, isn’t it?
Well, kind of.
The goal of any fictional show is to be captivating first and “accurate” maybe second or third. Because of things like pacing and conflict, the situations in the show are manufactured, the obstacles created. Editing, camera work, music: they all come together to captivate us.
But the reality is much less exciting. Take away the music and witty dialogue, and a detective’s job, like most jobs, can be pretty mundane.
And real life cases, taken as a whole, can be much less satisfying. At the end of 95% of Law & Order episodes, the bad guy is caught, and we feel that warm relief once the rapist, murderer, thief is pronounced “guilty” in court.
Yet how many cases go unsolved in real life? And outside of large profile cases, who even follows an ordinary murder case for weeks to hear the verdict?
My point is that much of the information we get about the world is second-hand (newspapers, network news, websites) and manufactured (Law & Order, Grey’s Anatomy, Southland, House) and it’s interesting to think about how that information is presented to us and the effects it has on our understanding of the world.
What do you think?