Swenson, “Rodney King, Reginald Denny and TV news”

 

In the article entitled Rodney King, Reginald Denny, and TV News: Cultural (Re)Construction of Racism the author, Jill Dianne Swenson employs the theories of Hall and Baudrillard together to provide a mechanism through which she looks at the video news narratives depicting the beatings of Rodney King and Reginald Denny. Alone these two theories are inadequate to provide a comprehensive explanation, but together they provide stereoscopic lenses to look at the videos of Rodney King and Reginald Denny. Baudrillard’s concept of the hyperreal is exemplified by the repetitious playing of the videos in order. TV news’ attempt to play the two videos of the beatings in order creates the illusion that they happened in sequential order. Baudrillard argues that the real is no longer real; rather a hyperreality is created in reality’s place. Hall’s theory suggests that the production of these videos invite the audience to “read racism.” The hyperreal mode of signification and preferred readings of these videos as stories of “racism”, in the case of King, and “reverse-racism” in the case of Denny, gave them a high sense of historical significance.  Thus both videos were encoded in a way as to limit the number of possible readings and encourage the preferred readings of racism.  TV coverage of these two events serves to explain how TV restores racial inequality and social order.

 

CSI and moral authority: The police and science

In this episode of CSI:NY Mac and the team investigated the murder of a successful businessman who never forgot the neighborhood that he came from. He was murdered in the vestibule of his sister-in-law’s apartment building, the same building in which he grew up. Through scientific exploration and the use of physical evidence the story told by the victim’s wife of how her loving husband was murdered in an attempted robbery was discredited. Eventually the cause of the murder was connected back to his wife and sister-in-law getting mixed up in a cocaine drug ring under threats from two brothers living across the hall. However this still did not account for who the murderer was. It was a mystery as to who else could’ve known when and where the sisters would be exchanging the drugs. The thin walls of the apartment building explained how the seemingly kind, safe, and hard-working neighbor was able to eavesdrop on the sisters’ phone call and get the information he needed to steal the drugs. However in his attempt to get the drugs he killed a good man in cold blood. The team was able to work together to solve the crime and bring peace to the sisters while bringing the guilty to justice.

In the article CSI and moral authority: The police and science the authors analyzed episodes of CSI and it’s spin offs CSI:NY and CSI:Miami.  In their analysis they focused on how CSI presents the moral authority of the police and science. They demonstrate based on viewing seasons of CSI how the show portrays a forensic realism to assert the moral superiority of science and the idea that science and the evidence doesn’t lie. CSI is different from many other crime dramas in it’s focus on forensics. The crimes depicted by the show are more often then not violent crimes, usually murder. The show hooks the audience’s emotions with how they portray the pain felt by the victim’s family. They also endear the team members to viewers when they connect emotionally with families of the victims. The team works together to solve violent crimes and no matter what have each other’s backs, they consider each other family which works to normalize law enforcement who are like our own family.

The authors also speak to how gender, race, and criminal stereotypes are portrayed in the show. In CSI the way gender is presented helps to maintain the notion of the investigators as the “good guys” and as moral authorities. Men are often shown in positions of power, however females are equal in their abilities and duties. As far as race is concerned in CSI the authors of the article note that characters of different races are important to the show, however race is rarely a relevant plot issue. The way criminals are depicted in the show is that they are generally unsympathetic and devoid of moral values. The offenders rarely show remorse, this reinforces stereotypes of who is or is not deserving of our moral sympathies. Overall the authors note that CSI perpetuates the mantra of police as moral authority against crime and criminals. The show works to validate scientific evidence and science itself, continually insisting that physical evidence cannot lie. CSI employs visual tools such as character attire, real looking crime scenes and fully stocked scientific laboratories to portray a “reality” to audiences. Lastly the authors remind us that this production is just TV, far from true reality.

The episode of CSI I viewed very much reinforces the observations put forth by the article. The police and science were depicted as a strong moral authority. Science without a doubt was relied on to find the truth that the story told to police by the victim’s wife was a lie. In the episode Mac even said, “We know that science doesn’t lie and people do.” This quote clearly speaks to the idea that when investigating crimes, law enforcement must rely on science to reveal the truth when they cannot rely on people or witnesses to do the same. Also in the episode Mac and his team members were portrayed as a close knit group who cared for one another beyond just the job. For example when one team member was greatly disturbed by the crime scene another suggested she take another job rather than be upset by the scene. These caring gestures help to endear the characters to the audience, thus endearing law enforcement to the audience as well. It was clear that the show depicts police and science as moral authorities just as was observed by the authors of the article.