An Affinity for Death on TV


For this final blog post I wanted to focus on death as it is portrayed in crime shows on tv. Everyone knows that television shows are scripted with actors and props and that the deaths that occur within them are not real. As a person who watches as least three episodes of either Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit or Criminal Minds per day, I can not answer the question, why? Is death not death? To an average American, death is terrifying and tragic yet we watch it on television sometimes daily. Why is death on crime shows so entertaining? Is it because the bad guy never wins and justice is always served? This can not be the answer due to the fact that sometimes justice is not served completely. Even if there is no death, something traumatic such as rape or torture occurs in these shows. So why do I watch them?

Another question I would like to raise is does watching death on TV desensitize me? Just like playing disasters such as 9/11, the Boston Bombing, or Sandy Hook on a loop on news channels, does watching numerous episodes of my two favorite shows numb me to real life events? This question I can answer and my reply is no. If I were to see someone murdered in front of my eyes or stumble upon a dead body, I would not be okay with it by any means. This says to me that the fact that I watch TV shows that display gruesome images does not affect what my reaction would be should I see these images in real life.
My original question was why do I enjoy watching crime shows that are structured around death or other disturbing likenesses? I still do not have an answer but hopefully I raised an issue that will cause the minds of others to jog a bit.



6 thoughts on “An Affinity for Death on TV

  1. I think you have brought up a great point! Our media likes to talk about death, which is ironic considering we feel America is a death denying culture. However, we all experience entertainment from our favorite television shows and oddly enough, they seemed to be revolved around death, murder and killers. My favorite tv show of all time is Dexter, and he is a serial killer who kills serial killers. I find it fascinating that I cheer for Dexter, who is a mass murderer. I guess knowing that it is not real allows me to cheer for the “bad guy”. Many tv shows, such as Dexter or CSI, are centered around tragic and brutal losses, and it would be horrible if these deaths were occurring every week. I also feel like watching these shows does not desensitize me, but I sure learn a lot about trying to makes deaths look like an accident! If anything, these shows teach us more about the reasoning behind the killings and what goes on in the mind of a killer. It’s okay to find it entertaining! I will always watch my favorite crime shows again and again, but now I will think more about why I find it so entertaining because it somehow draws me in.

    • I completely agree with you. I think that a lot of the entertainment value and interest comes from learning what goes on in sick people’s minds. The answer to the question “what on Earth would drive a person to do such a thing?” That’s the cool part. It’s always something twisted and usually has something to do with their past. It’s probably more of an interest in psychology than anything, but still it’s strange to think about. I’m watching an episode of Law & Order SVU right at this moment. A girl was just found in an elevator shaft with her breasts cut off. After rereading my last sentence I’m almost disgusted with myself for continuing to watch such a thing, but of course I just have to find out what happened to her so its obviously a curiosity thing as well.

  2. I watch both of these shows all of the time also! It is very interesting that our culture loves to watch shows that are all about death, but also, our culture hates talking about real life death. I think that people who watch these shows enjoy them because they feel like these kinds of things would never happen to them or their loved ones. Most people do not think twice about watching gruesome deaths of others, but if they ever saw a death like that in real life, they would never be the same. These shows are centered around death, millions of people watch them, but death is still such a hard topic for people to talk about. You brought up a very interesting topic that we may never know the answer to!

    • After reading your post I had an epiphany. You mentioned people being comfortable with and even enjoying these shows because they don’t believe that such things could ever happen to them. While writing my original post, I completely forgot the fact that I watch the Investigation Discovery channel which features shows that depict the same terrible events (death, rape, torture, etc.) that have actually happened in real life. I watch shows that explain, in depth, the same things I see on my favorite fiction shows, but have really happened to people. Part of it is me being curious, but the other part truly is that I can’t see those things happening to me personally. This has to be at least a small portion of the explanation. Very good point.

  3. I think a large answer to your first question about how can we watch something so taboo has to do with the fact that its not something that is personally happening to us, so we find ourselves not as disturbed or scared from it. Well we might find ourselves scared but it has more to do with the content of the episode then the actual death. I think you’re completely right though about the desensitizing when it comes to events that occur in our lives that don’t necessarily happen to us but to others, we might not feel as bad since we’ve already seen a character go through it on television.

  4. I really like your post. What interest me is what a contrast it is when a death is portrayed in a tv show as opposed to real life. In shows like SVU the death of people is what sells and is the premise of the show. It is easy for us to watch shows like this but when we experience a death in the real world it is a lot harder. This shows that even though we may be exposed to death, we may not truly be really to deal with it until that time truly arrives in our own lives.

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