Too Many Bodies?

Posted: February 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

Both actress Dame Helen Mirren and playwright David Hare have recently criticised British television for its focus on murder. Dame Helen also notes that the majority of the corpses belong to young women.
The main reason for this focus is that people enjoy watching crime drama, particularly those with a high body count. It is, like so much else in the media, ratings driven.
There are a number of reasons for this popularity. A crime drama has at its heart, a mystery. This can either involve the killing of one person or several. Why murder? Perhaps it is because death is extreme and therefore dramatic – it goes, quite literally to the heart of everything. We want to know how can someone perform such a wicked act and what drove them to it. Also the power of the puzzle should not be underestimated. The solving of a mystery is entertaining, particularly when there is no risk involved. This vicariousness might also have a more disturbing connotation. Could it be that watching crime drama allows us to inhabit our own dark side without consequences?
But what is it about serial murder in particular that draws us in? This kind of crime enables the narrative to examine more than one puzzle and as each murder takes place with further clues and red herrings and all the ingredients of a deepening mystery, the drama becomes more intense because there is more at stake.
Why female victims? This reflects reality. FBI statistics show that there are almost twice as many female serial murder victims than men and that almost half of all serial murder victims are aged between 20 and 30. Most serial killers act with a sexual motive often in conjunction with other things such as anger, power or control and unfortunately this makes women in many cases, natural victims for this kind of killer.
It is true that there are bodies galore in UK made TV dramas such as Silent Witness, Lewis, Whitechapel, Midsomer Murders, Death in Paradise, Ripper Street, What Remains and The Fall as well as foreign imports The Bridge and The Killing. What else do these dramas have in common? People love them.
If you don’t want to be in them Dame Helen – that’s fine. If you don’t want to write them, David Hare – also fine. But don’t please moan about body counts because telling us what we should like – that isn’t fine at all.


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