Last Thursday, I was watching The First 48 on A&E–it’s a cops type show where you follow homicide detectives instead of patrol officers. The premise is that if police don’t have a suspect/evidence within 48 hours, the odds of catching a murderer plummet. Reality tv/documentaries love pushing the envelope, but the First 48 went too far–in full view of the tv camera some policeman sat a woman in a patrol car to tell her that her son had been shot dead. And then the camera focused on her while she was screaming and wailing. WTF??
Why didn’t the policeman deliver the news off camera? Why didn’t the editors of the program cut that scene out? What is to be gained by watching someone’s anguish and pain? Did the producers think that because the victim was poor and black (read:crime is probably a drug deal gone bad), the viewing audience needed to see someone crying hysterically to humanize him?
I don’t know. I’ve seen women do the run of shame on Maury when they find out that a man they have been hounding for months “is not the father”–and never had a second thought about it. People are always doing stupid things or letting an embarrassing secret slip out on reality shows. They sign up for that though–what’s a little humiliation when it comes with a free trip to NYC.
The First 48 isn’t that kind of reality show. This mother didn’t sign sign up for a challenge that accidentally went wrong. There was just something nasty about it.
I have to wonder if there was a racial component to it. If it were the body of a middle class, white teen—would there be a camera up in the family’s face as an officer is delivering the bad news? Or would it just be enough to have someone say “such and such” was a good kid.
Grief should never be used for entertainment. Never.