TV Viewing Assignment

Television and the media have taken new steps for keeping the viewing public entertained.  Real-life crime dramas and documentaries have become more popular than talk shows in some viewing areas.  Shows have been developed and are aired in weekly syndication featuring murders, cold cases, forensic evidence, and bounty hunting.  What is even more entertaining is a real-life crime documentary profiling women in relation to their own crime stories.  Women typically do not commit crimes as often as men nor are their crimes as violent, but some shows are beginning to question that theory in its entirety.      
The television show Snapped focuses on crimes committed by women.  Each episode features a different woman and her story in relation to the crime, motivation, and life history leading up to the moment of the crime (Prosserman  Mil, 2005).  Many of the women come from a long history of either abuse or addiction.  The episode entitled Dixie Shanahan tells the sad tale of a woman who while searching for love, falls into the hands of a monster.  Dixie Shanahan was a small town girl whose love for one man drove her to murder him in cold blood.  Her long history of being abused by her husband was no secret in the small town of Defiance, Iowa, and it even prompted the communitys citizens to raise her 15,000.00 bail before trial.  Unfortunately, while the community felt sympathy for her circumstances, it was the same community of her peers that rendered her guilty of murder in the second degree a crime of passion.
The criminal justice system does not have a separate set of rules for men and women.  The gender of the suspect is irrelevant to any crime, but the reasons behind the crime or leading up to the crime are often quite different.  The Snapped program presents a full and detailed documentary into the life of the female criminal.  It shows what kind of life the woman lead before the crime, offers glimpses into her childhood, gives credit to her education, and indicates her level of community involvement.  Many of the women profiled in the program were soccer moms, stay-at-home moms, dedicated wives, community leaders, or women who held positions deserving of respect within their townships.  The show also shows the often direct contrast of their life behind closed doors and out of the public eye.  This area is too often downplayed by newspapers and the evening news.
The criminal justice system is accurately portrayed in the Snapped television program.  Opinions are a dime a dozen.  In the Dixie Shanahan episode, the sheriffs department and the producers of the program agreed that justice in this particular instance was not served as the criminal justice system severely punished a woman for merely being the victim of years of false imprisonment and domestic violence.  Dixie Shanahan was sentenced to fifty years in the Iowa Womens Correctional Center.  Granted, murder must be punished and never tolerated in order to maintain order within society, but there are mitigating circumstances that can justify the heinous criminal act.
The Snapped program showed how a police department should correctly respond to a concerned citizens complaint in reference to another citizens sudden disappearance.  Smaller towns are usually more in touch with the behavior patterns of its citizens.  The police, who had arrested Dixie Shanahans husband on many occasions, were very concerned given the fact that he had suddenly dropped off the face of the earth.  Dixie offered the explanation that he had taken up with a new woman, moved out of the area, and become addicted to drugs.  At first, everyone seemed pleased that he was finally out of her life, but when this typically fearful woman began selling off his personal property it created questions.  The police department continued with its repeated attempts to validate Dixies story of her husband running off, but it kept hitting brick walls and dead ends.  She was interviewed by the police department, but as the interview went on, she became more agitated.  A search warrant was obtained for her home whereby her husbands badly decomposed body was found in the spare bedroom of her home.  When the police arrested her, she did not seem surprised.
This program shows the general public that women are just as capable as men when it comes to committing murder and other criminal acts.  It also shows that women are human and can be pushed to the brink of self-destruction.  Programs such as the one discussed here in some ways do help the criminal justice system by showing that every avenue is investigated and every stone overturned during an investigation and trial.  Unfortunately, shows like this can put ideas and images into some peoples minds that could create a bias or an unfounded belief that everyone behaves the same or for the same reasons.  Some members of the viewing public have knowledge enough to know that each case is different, but some people believe everything that they see or hear.  While this may hinder one from getting a fair and just trial, it may also serve as a new ground for appeal as well.


Post a Comment