I know I’m just a lowly cameraman, but can I call for a moratorium on all things CSI? Granted, I don’t watch the silly network shows, but even an avid Caruso-hater like myself can tell when a phenomenon has jumped the freakin’ shark. Case in point: In the past two weeks, I’ve shot multiple stories involving fake crime scenes. First it was the Elon Law School in downtown Greensboro. When Charles Ewing and I strolled through their newly hallowed doors, no one much noticed. They were all too busy huddling over a splayed-out mannequin, who - from the looks of it - had been attacked by a pack of dummies from the wrong side of the thrift store. Hey, I’m no fancy-chancy law student but wouldn’t that gaping head wound pretty much rule out accidental drowning? Forget I mentioned it; just know that no matter how much you wrap the lobby in crime tape, it doesn’t proximate the feeling of an inner-city shooting after midnight. For that you need sleep in your eyes, mismatched socks and an indignant crackhead or two. Then, and only then, can you properly cue The Who.
Now, before I proceed, your honor, can I approach the jury? See folks, I’m no prude. Long before it was cool to scrape for DNA, I was living vicariously through forensics. It began in grade school, when I ran across a most intriguing Readers Digest collection: Great True Stories of Crime, Mystery and Detection. I must have read every word of those London Yard stories a dozen times, before losing the book during the fog of adolescence. When I spotted a tattered copy of my beloved tome lying in top of a church book sale pile, I almost caused my own crime scene by bum-rushing three grandmothers in order to grab it. Years later, I rediscovered my affinity for investigations while posing a bored sailor out to sea. A buddy passed me a torn paperback edition of The Stranger Beside Me. In it, writer Ann Rule describes how the handsome young fellow working the suicide hotline alongside her was far creepier than at first glance. His name was Ted Bundy and I was enraptured. After that I read every serial murderer tome I could lay my hands on, until a skeevy shipmate noticed my true crime tastes and invited me to his satanic church meetings. Check, Please!
Mmm-Hmm. Sorry about the flashback. Truthfully, I haven’t thought about those dark days underway in a l-o-n-g time. That’s a good thing - for certain memories should be forever buried in a shallow grave. But enough about my mental scars - I was talkin’ True Crime. For the most part, I grew out of it (though may I heartily recommend Sebastian Junger’s creepy remembrance of a childhood handyman/monster in A Death in Belmont? Good stuff). No, these days, I’m only vaguely aware of the forensics renaissance in popular culture. It’s an easy enough feat. I abhor the hour-long drama and visual violence as entertainment struck me as dumb around the fifteenth time my old roommates insisted we watch Commando, starring a young and apparently bulletproof Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since then, I’ve handily eschewed this national fascination with rigamortis. But today, as I trained my lens on a group of seventh graders measuring fake blood splatter, a question I couldn’t answer popped in my head.
What ever happened to The Hardy Boys?