Wednesday 22 February 2023

Crime drama series

The photos used for making these paintings date from 2007.

I never throw anything away that might be useful, and I had no clue back than that one day I’d be making paintings from them. Well, what I said is not quite true as I sometimes throw away opportunities, like when at the end of my BA I got a job instead of making art.


I showed the following paintings to some people, notably on Facebook, and the reaction was positive so something might eventuate. One person I know said to scrap the collage but I’m not taking anyone’s advice on matters relating to art look where it got me. Haha!

Because I watch a lot of crime dramas I’ve been thinking about why we depend on them for so much of our entertainment, it must have something to do with the fact that crime is punished based on law and law is something we make, so watching crime dramas is like a form of applied civics, where we get to contemplate a human-made cognitive artefact in peace. 

Life is not always fair and the justice system is clearly not working – people continue despite the apparent warnings given by sentences, to commit crime – so it’s worthwhile sitting back to wonder at the rules. Most crime dramas are suspended on the notion that murder is illegal, which is should be, but there are rules that surround it that make us form opinions about justice and what it means.

Crime dramas also have an institutional bias in the form of deference to authority. Within the hierarchical structure of the police there are some people who are further up the blasted tree than others. But the police also throw their weight around and in crime dramas, because they’re mostly based on the notion of killing another human being – depriving them of happiness, time with family, the ability to reproduce – this use of threat is implicitly justified whereas in real life the police are often involved in imposing unjust laws so we are less likely to agree with their conduct if we knew about it.

The police are not always apt to live up to the notions proposed by crime dramas. They are not always fair. Even if they are not sent by the Devil they can be not only illegal in their conduct but immoral too, depending on who you are.

So when I watch ‘Kavanaugh QC’ or ‘Midsomer Murders’ I am participating in a kind of ritual like a demotic sacrament, it offers me a ticket to Eternity on the Celestial Express at least for an hour or two, I can sit back and watch my life play out or I can imagine other lives through the lens of justice. Secondary themes add interest in case you get sick of just another bloody murder.

I watched a fun retrospective of ‘Midsomer Murders’ the other day looking back at 25 years of the program and the word used in the subtitle was “mayhem” but I rather think that crime dramas of any sort – even those with methods of murder as bizarre as those used in MM – give structure and meaning to our lives, most of which are tied to institutions of some kind and most of which will involve some sort of notionally illegal activity whether that is the use of illicit substances or casual speeding. We are none of us saints but we are all on the bus.

Next stop: the Pearly Gates.

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