A week marinating in murder

Posted on January 20, 2012


I have to consult a calendar to learn what day of the week it is.  I’m proud of the fact that I’m sitting upright while typing this.  I have eaten a half dozen bowls of mom-prepared custard, and it’s not nearly enough.  This is the aftermath.

Obviously this web log thing is an account of my personal comings and goings to some extent, but it’s about to get a little more personal.  I apologize, as I have no intention of making this space a confessional booth, but I have to provide a few details to set this entry up.  Last week I finally underwent a much delayed and many times postponed minor surgical procedure.  Don’t worry, I won’t post any pictures.  A talented surgeon repaired a mysterious blockage in my urinary tract.  Huzzah!  I’m fine, but as a result I have spent a week bedridden.  Moving hurts.  Standing hurts.  Sitting hurts.  Everything hurts!  But the most comfortable position by far is a sort of drunken slouch on my now all too familiar couch.

The view from here

Pictured above are pills, water, and a list my mom kept of all of the expired food she managed to either throw out or feed me.  Total tally:  55 items!  Yes, I am a hoarder.

Anyways, since I’ve had nothing to do, and have been partially doped up on painkillers I have spent almost all of my waking time watching TV on Netflix.  Hour after bloody hour.  This has afforded me an unprecedented opportunity to do some amateur anthropology, divining the nature of humanity through its cultural products.  Now obviously there is a huge selection bias, but nevermind that.  I have concluded that we as a species are utterly obsessed with murder to an astonishing degree.  Every single show features homicide in spades, so much so that I suggest that contemporary drama suffers from what we might call Moral Super Inflation.  Think of people buying loaves of bread with wheelbarrows full of dead bodies, or something like that…  Seriously, in your average TV show nothing of any significance is happening unless someone is killed.  The characters have their petty little problems, sure, but they are all dwarfed by the threat or reality of death.  Who really cares if this couple patches up their relationship when oh my god the husband has a gun to his head!  And so on and so on.  In a single week of watching TV nonstop I estimate that I have witnessed something on the order of 450 murders, give or take.  I see chalk outlines when I close my eyes.

Tune in next week for more of same

All of this death and destruction is ruining drama for me completely.  I find myself spending the time trying figure out who will get killed next, rather than giving a damn about what’s actually happening, and one’s evaluation of each show amounts to rating the daring of the writing staffs; I never thought they’d kill her.  Wow!  Rubbish.  It’s just so boring after a while.

I suppose it makes sense from an evolutionary biology perspective.  We are naturally endowed with an aversion to the killing of our own species.  It’s a pretty efficient mechanism to ensure our continuation (minus large catastrophic wars, I know), and so people being killed plays on the mind at some primordial level.  Hits you right between the amygdala and the hippocampus, sure.  But it’s just so lazy!  And the apparent big stakes horror of TV murder is completely undermined by the utterly callous reaction 99% of characters have to death.  Oh look, a bloody corpse.  Ho hum.  Let’s go!  And 44 minutes later everyone is fine again, and no one cares at all (except for maybe a sad, set to music mourning montage which concludes with no character development at all).  Honestly, I would really like to see TV writers try to create some sort of tension or conflict without people being killed or brutally abused.  I have to think that it’s possible.

Good readers, what TV dramas are out there which don’t rely overmuch on death or its constant threat?  What am I missing?

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