Why do we watch Crime Shows?

Recently, I started watching investigative police video, on You Tube. I was interested in learning how investigators gradually chip away the lies and expose the “criminal”in a crime. I stand guilty of enjoying them. Some of us, love to watch crime shows, and I started to become curious to understand the nature of this “pleasure”.

It reminds me, of the book I read long back by the forensic psychiatrist Dr. Simon’s “Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream”. He proposes

that the only difference between Good Men and bad people is that a good person may just imagine or fantasize, about those so-called “criminals acts” or rather socially and legally unacceptable impulses but doesn’t cross over to the dark side of the crime. The criminal does make this transition by acting on those impulses.When I come across someone saying “oh my God! I can’t imagine someone could do that horrific crime”. If I happen to be an in an unforgiving mood, I end up blurting out “dude you have a very limited imagination”! I won’t deny that I haven’t gotten into trouble for saying that.

What happens generally is that we keep these thoughts “securely chained” in our “unconscious mind’s dungeons”.

Sometimes, they jailbreak by spilling over in the dream content and make their appearance as “nightmares”.

Going back the original question “why we love to watch crime shows” – is it possible, that act of watching it, absolves ourselves of any bad thoughts?

One of my friends – a psychotherapist-recently saw a young man,who had just returned from his deployment overseas. He witnessed a lot of bloodbath in bombing, explosions and as a matter of fact one bomb exploded right over his tent,killing many of his coworkers. Surely enough he suffered from PTSD. Strangely, he himself was a sniper, and took many lives without feeling traumatized. He shared with her, in confidence, that he misses not being a sniper because “I was very good at

that”obliquely referring to killing people without really saying it.

Was he committing a crime?Not legally, no,because the state condones it, but would it be pardoned on the day of reckoning? Who knows? Dostoevsky’s character Raskolnikov, a former student, lives in poverty and chaos in St. Petersburg .He decides—through contradictory theories, including utilitarian morality and the belief that extraordinary people have the “right to transgress”—to murder Alyona Ivanovna, an elderly pawnbroker in crime and punishment struggles with coming to terms with one such crime.

Franz Kafka’s Mr. K in his novel “the trial” wakes up one morning and finds he has been arrested right there in his bedroom for a “crime, he has no clue about” and throughout the novel he’s trying to figure it out. He even presents himself to “the court “, meets his lawyer and meets people of influence to get himself out of this “pickle “but to no avail and in the end he’s “executed like a dog” for some crime he had no knowledge of. The psychoanalytic take on the plot of this novel is that the “the court of law” represents unforgiving ruthless “unconscious”. What was his crime- ignorance about the workings of the “unconscious mind”. I see many people who have been “arrested by the unconscious” – the psychiatric diagnosis could be anything from garden variety depression to schizophrenia.

It also brings a question what would be considered a crime in the religious world. I’m not a clergyman, but whatever little I know about the Bible, I would say the first crime reported in the Bible was Cain killing Abel, and God became the first investigator. Cain committed one of the deadliest 7 sins – “jealousy” and that lead to the taboo of murdering his own brother. God asks Cain “where is your brother” and Cain retorts back “I’m not my brother’s keeper”. This answer was another crime he committed, because God opines “we are our brother’s keeper that means being responsible for others”. So, who are our brothers? Just the ones who share the same household, community, nation, or religion or could it be extended to all those who are sharing this planet. If we are all the bound by the bond of brotherhood, then killing someone dispassionately like that sharpshooter did, under to pretext of defending “our sovereignty” -should be a crime as well. But then again, “the poor guy was just following orders to make a living at the very least”. The character in Crime and Punishment – Raskolnikov provided a similar explanation for the murder. It is perhaps easy to demonize all the Nazi guards at the concentration camps for killing millions – in their own mind perhaps they were “just” following orders. More recently 9/11 terrorists killed thousands and were following “religious orders”.

A logical subquery of the subject question is –

Who decide what’s a crime? Should it be determined internally as Raskolnikov decided in the end; because under some strange circumstances, someone else was accused and found guilty. Raskolnikov, in the end decides to go to the police and confesses his crime.

After all these meanderings,I do want to come back to the original thought, “why do people indulge in their voyeurism vis a vis violence and crime”.And it is not only in the contemporary world, that people indulge in this pastime; Roman gladiators, and in medieval England, the public hangings served a similar purpose. The state would allow their subjects leisure time to participate in such activities.

Currently it’s not acceptable to watch even the cockfighting- it is a lot of blood- forget watching the execution or the blood bath in the “Roman colosseum “; so, the situations where people can have such gratification, is watching crime shows, playing violent video games and maybe watching violent sports like boxing.

It’s possible that, it gives a voice to their unacknowledged unconscious fantasies, fears and what not. In conclusion, my proposition that we love to watch crime shows, to absolve ourselves of “finding the same tendencies, within us, which has the potential to hijack our hard-earned bourgeois calm and peace”!

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