Monday, 27 June 2011

Still Watching

I keep the Casey Anthony trial on HLN as I go about my daily business.

Some people are critical of people who are watching this spectacle, but one could easily pass judgement against ANYTHING a person watches.  There are shows on TV that are very popular, but that I have never seen.  I don't care that people watch what they do.  It's not my business.

I have a huge interest in crime and courtroom proceedings, etc.  Been that way since I was young.  I read true crime, I watch criminal biographies and crime documentaries - I read crime fiction, and I even WRITE crime fiction.

I watched the entire OJ Simpson trial and have several of the books that were written afterward, including the (if) I DID IT book that the Goldmans gained the rights to in lieu of certain cash settlements due them from Simpson after the civil suit.  I watched the Jackson trials, too.
Manson, Bundy, Gacy, Holmes, Nelson, Gein, Wuornos, Fish - I've read up on all of them...and many more.

And so comes the question, "WHY?"

I wonder if my interest comes from a desire to watch the human killer as I might the killer in the animal kingdom.  Take the shark, for example.  The shark may hang out where there's lots of food and kill at random.  I watch these nature shows too.  I've watched shark attacks - the shark sneaking up on the seal and taking it out with one big bite!

The shark is not arrested because he kills to feed.

And yet, we arrested Jeffrey Dahmer.  A shark, of sorts?  A predator?

But a human.  Is it different.  And if so, why?

Casey Anthony is not a predator.  If she killed, she did so once, and would likely never do it again.  If she's guilty, she killed for a different reason.  And I'm not her judge.

It's not just the psychology of the killer that fascinates me - it's also the psychology of the society that judges her.  The various elements of morality that crop up.  Thou Shalt Not Kill.  That sort of thing.  We waffle back and forth between psychology and philosophy.

I wonder if people who criticise the "morbidity" of the TV courtroom watchers are doing so to pad their comfort zone - to make sure they distance themselves from what they perceive as decadent or cruel behaviour - in effect, distancing themselves from Anthony herself.  People call killers MONSTERS so that it's made perfectly clear that they are a breed apart.

I tend to watch with more sadness and sorrow than I used to when I was younger.  The more I see of this case, the sadder it gets.  Demonstrating that killing is wrong by threatening to kill the person who killed?  Shaky standards, at best.  As I could never kill a baby, I could never kill the person who killed a baby.

I'm no genius - I don't have a satisfactory explanation of what SHOULD be done.  Maybe it's not THAT they want to kill her, but the manner in which it's done, and then justified.

If a hyena killed a lion cub, and then the mother lion killed the hyena, I'd have nothing to say.
Nature has a kind of raw justice that we humans have "evolved" away from.  But it leaves us with a lot of questions.  Well, it leaves ME with questions, anyway.

Justice among humans is an odd thing.

I suppose that - in the end - despite my analytical psychobabble, I can't answer (to my own satisfaction) why I watch this kind of TV.  Listening to people as they describe dead babies and skeletal remains, etc.  And then listening to TV anchors and experts analyse the proceedings like they're doing a play-by-play sports review.

Could it be that it's simply because most of us see TV as Entertainment?  The Casey Anthony Show.  The OJ Simpson Show.  If it's on TV, it's there to entertain me.

I'm not sure it's that cold-blooded, but I wonder nonetheless.  It's not like I'm making popcorn and relaxing on the couch while I watch.  But maybe it IS cold blooded.

Roger Waters describes this mentality as "The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range."  Do we yell for executions because we're not in the chair?  Or the one with a finger on the button?

We seem braver when we have nothing on the line.

In the end, if you were to pin me down, I'd say I agree with the idea that I'm watching to define the killer as different to myself.

But I could never call her a monster.

As I watch her face (or the face of any killer in my list) I see a human being going through something horrific - something I am glad not to have in my own life. I can't imagine killing a baby; neither can I imagine living inside the skin of the Accused.

It's a way of counting my blessings, I guess.  My days are pretty safe.  The TV is on, and I'm out of range.

But do I have nothing on the line?

If anybody has this whole thing figured out, drop me a line.

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