I grew up with Law & Order, CSI, NCIS, and dozens of other shows filling my evenings. I tended toward the more investigative programs, but I watched plenty of the shows that just showed the “good guy” beating up the “bad guy” any way they could. I will admit I enjoyed them as a kid and even as an adult.
I will also admit that I didn’t really pay attention to the underlying messages and unintentional objectives of the shows (or perhaps someone really knew what they were doing, I can’t say). However, the idea that an official of the government should bend the rules to get a “bad guy” to talk shows up in so many of these programs I watched and enjoyed. Sometimes there were consequences raises, but I can’t actually recall any real ones in these programs. The rest of the “official organization” simply looked away. Perhaps some offered quiet disagreement and warnings, but ultimately the violations remained ignored because the means found justification in the ends.
When you cut away the rest for the humor, action, and drama, this seems to be the core basis for a procedural drama: get the “bad guy” anyway you can.
These last few months at home have exposed a blindness I had to these messages in these programs. I even talked about Psychology and writing a couple weeks ago and mentioned that being observant is a key aspect of a writer’s life. But I did not recognize just how tone deaf some of these programs are until I started listening to an audio book for a book published in 2006 (which is not that long ago). I listened to the reader talking about the systematic torture of a multiple people the author demonstrated through actions as actual bad guys. I listened to the protagonist’s superiors complain and threaten the main character, but then dismiss the issue because results occurred; information obtained.
I won’t name the book or author. This is not a rebuke on them personally. More a critique of myself and my own thought processes and what I would say was a willful ignorance, even if not a conscious one.
Learning and growing can be hard. It can be unpleasant to admit. But it is necessary so that one can do better in the future.