Swenson Article on King, Denny, and TV News

The article by Jill Dianne Swenson focuses on the beatings of Rodney King and Reginald Denny, the encoding within the respective videos and together. This article talks about how the use of videos to show both of these beatings creates a hyperreal concept in the memory of viewers. Furthermore viewers are seduced by the news broadcasters to think that just watching the video enough to solve the problem. The main focus however, is the encoded message within the videos, and how those two messages relate to one another forming the idea of racial inequality. The Rodney King video contained both intentional encoding from the news stations and unintentional encoding from the amateur cameraman, Holliday. Some of the attributes in the encoding included are the gaze, lighting, camera angle, color, texture, and style of the recording. All these things put together enhance the realism of the unclear video making it look more historical with the perpetrators unaware of the recording. The black and white color creates the two sides, good and bad. The Reginald Denny video encoding gives the view of God from above, with clarity allows the viewer to distinguish who is who. This video also shows the great contrast between the victims light skin tone, his white cloths and the blood over his body. The Denny video is presented as the reversing of roles from the King video. Swenson though argues that this is not true and instead the Denny video was used by the media to add the racial inequality being push by the media. She says Denny is encoded as only the victim while King is both the victim and villain. Overall she believes the two videos portrayed the dangers of black and whites being together.


CSI is a very popular show that is enjoyed worldwide by a large audience. Yet this very show has multiple underlying ideas that the common viewer rarely notices. In an article written by Gray Cavender from Arizona State University and Sarah K. Deutsch from University of Wisconsin, the two bring to light these many hidden themes.

The article showcases the ideas generated from the research done by these two individuals. They compare the differences between episodes from the first season of CSI and the season aired in 2006. Their research focused on the crime statistics, crime genre, and the forensic science in each episode. They present their findings in three parts. First, CSI present the police as the moral authority and its reliance of the usual television crime genre. From their research they found that a large majority of the crimes were violent crimes that mainly focused around murder and that the police are presented as the good guys. The police are further presented as a smooth running body that is able to get the job done. Secondly, how CSI presents a sense of science and how it makes it appear as a moral authority. The science in CSI is used in a way that makes the characters seem knowledgeable as they are able to explain all their steps in the investigation. Science is also shown as the having to the answer to problems by revealing the evidence which is also considered the truth, making it a great resource and the best judge possible. The third and finally part is the combination of melodrama and realism along with police themes in CSI to showcase cultural meaning. Throughout each episode the appearance of scene were made to look realistic, focusing even on the small details to create the idea of realism. Finally the article concludes with the idea that such shows have had great effect on viewers, even to the extreme that some now consider forensic science as being the only type of evidence.

To try view this ideas first, I watched an episode of CSI. The episode begins with Mac lying down in a pharmacy where he has been shot and moves one to him being rushed into the ER. Throughout the rest of the episode it is a constant switch between Mac’s unconscious thinking and the investigations in real time. The first and last dream state scene is of him and his late wife having a moment to reflect the things that they wish they had told each other. Throughout the rest of the episode each “dream” is Mac talking to each member of his team reconciling various unspoken matters. It then moves on to tell the story that led to Mac getting shot. A suspect is brought in for questioning over a bank robbery and the evidence takes a drastic turn to implicate his grandfather that he lives with rather than him. The grandfather confesses and he is also quite sick so Mac offers to go get him medication. At the pharmacy he encounters a robbing in process and kills the robber in the store, but eventually is shot in the back by the thief’s girlfriend. The team’s investigation leads them to a DNA sample on the counter that identifies the shooter. They initiate pursuit of the suspect by first raiding her residence where they find she has just left and end up pursuing here into a school bus parking lot. After a small chase they are able to apprehend her and bring her into custody. Mac recovers from surgery and the final scene is of the whole team, including Mac, 6 months later investigating a new crime scene.

I feel like this was a less conventional episode of CSI that focused a lot more on the personal story of Mac, the team leader, rather than on the investigation. Yet the other themes that Cavender and Deutsch mention in their article are also very apparent in this episode. One key aspect that is shown is the use of technology and the reliance on it as an unfailing resource. This is clear when one of the agents, Lindsay, tries to use muscle structure analyzer to connect the suspect to the scene and not only disappointed that it didn’t make the link but also seems shocked that it didn’t work. Another idea presented from the article is that majority of CSI episodes are about murder, and I was not at all surprised that this particular episode consists of one and even almost two murders.

The one area of this show that jumps out in relation to one of the findings of the article is when Mac (during his unconscious state) tells Donald not to take revenge for his death like he did before but rather to just do his jobs. This stands out greatly as by Donald doing his job, the police are presented as the moral authority. Furthermore in this episode never do we see the suspects being taken to court to be sentence, but instead the second they are caught by the team it seems like they are immediately guilty and no further process needs to take place. The moral authority image created for the police force in CSI is further polished by the show never showing any problems within the police force that would disrupt investigations.