Friday, June 29, 2012

This Evil, I series on Investigation Discovery...

It's unnerving, this series of first person portrait narrations and autobiographies by interior monologue. Some voice actors are of course better than other voice actors. And there's still a script in each episode as we toggle back and forth between the first person narration and the journalistic and psychiatric sidenotes. It's very gritty, lurid, overkill. And yet it works. It's like Jim Thompson's narrational positioning, I guess. With a shade of William Burroughs thrown in. But that surrealism that all of these stories really crave is not given except as scintillae. But it's creepy. It gets under your skin. How dare the monster tell his favorite monstrous story. Why do we watch? To see the comeuppance? To try to figure out where a normal human torqued off into something inhuman? For the same reason the Spanish watch bullfights? Suddenly one feels disgust. And turns away. And then one thinks turning away is a way of denying the worst manifestations of reality. One feels one is learning. But there is only an endless repetition of this or that cycle. Which is admittedly funny. And why Beckett is mostly comedy even when tragedies are coming quickfire at the pitiful characters. A pitiful character may be pitiable to himself. Or not. Is he more pitiable if he knows his own pitifulness? But here there be paradoxes. To go around pitying himself for his pitifulness is pretty deep pity. But to go around not even knowing how pitiable you are is to suffer the liabilities this state of ignorance amerces. So some would say that is the more pitiable character, the clueless one. Screwed either way. Crime (and crime-related art) is not a simple subject because it attacks our individual and social consciousness on so many levels at once: the visceral level of animal survival, the intellectual level--the solving of the crime and the processing of a horrific emotional experience by, respectively, law enforcement and the victims --and then that third and strangest level at which it engages us. I mean the sense of justice, that heightened importance of ethics and ethical paradoxes--which seems to mean so many different things to different people. And how justice shades into revenge, sometimes with a legal mandate and sometimes not.


  1. I was just watching Evil, I yesterday for the first time. I am pretty hooked on ID and have been asking myself why am I so interested in these kinds of shows. After seeing 2 episodes, I thought to myself "Well, they can all hang it up now. This is the only show I'll need." I think in my case it's the reason that I want to see where a normal person went off the rails. Or maybe see if they were ever on them to begin with. I'm really fascinated by the deviant mind, and I really felt like I could understand when, during the Ramon Salcido episode, the voiceover explained that sure he'd done a few wrong things, but that people had largely misunderstood him and his motivations.

    There's an article by Helen Benedict called "Fiction vs Nonfiction: Wherein Lies the Truth?" that I think, given some of your thoughts here, you would enjoy. I've read it literally hundreds of times; I read it daily for several years, and though I wouldn't say that those "character recreations" of the killers are strictly fiction, they're highly creative nonfiction so I think this applies. Ms. Benedict postulates that in fiction we can find subjective truths that surround those objective facts, so I think that more than those interviews with killers and more than fictional portrayals of murderers, the way it's done in Evil, I is conducive to really understanding, from our side of things, the way a particular murderous individual thinks.

    Don't know about posting links, but the essay can be found here and I encourage you to give it a read. I'd love to know your thoughts on it, because I think it is especially interesting if you consider its content in the context of Evil, I.

  2. Hi. Thanks for this thoughtful comment and writing on this theme which fascinates both of us. Some of those episodes will be better scripted than others and there is the lurid element of sort of going backwards (fifties?) towards the pulp fiction mentality. But I tend to like a lot of pulp fiction writers and that tone and I appreciate the absence (it is absent, right?) of obtrusive music cueing your emotions. If it's there it must be subtle. I don't take it as gospel that they'll get every killer's motivations right and it worries me that they are often going by what the killer said, and sociopaths are known for leaving manipulative testimonials. I think of Jeffrey Dahmer trying to prove how sane his insanity really was with that FBI profiler. Or Ted Bundy doing the same thing and agreeing "Yeah, it must have been the pornography." Just as he wanted to help in that one case, catching a serial killer. I laugh when I hear that. Because I know what he was doing. That was no philanthropy. He wanted inside details and probably photos of those bodies. For his own personal satisfaction--that was the pornography he was really after. Salcedo didn't really griip me as much because anyone can snap and just kill every single person who has recently pissed them off and even some who didn't just because they're there. That's just your everyday psychotic break. He could just as easily have gone the other way but mabye I'm using rose-colored glasses. Maybe he was born primed to snap and with low tolerance. It's sad when those sorts of killers really appear to be seeking a way to control their problems and not killing because it's sport/sexual turn on to them. It implies those people might have gotten help. I suppose some sociopaths could have too but it would have had to have come MUCH sooner in their lives and maybe it wouldn't have helped in many cases. I liked the one where he let the one woman live and then she got him caught. I think she survived because she knew how to play the empathy game and he believed her. I was really moved that she became a police officer and how she spoke about the victims who didn't survive, kept them uppermost in her mind. That's real strength. I'll try to read that article soon. My brain is too scattered today to focus on it and I'd rather read it fresh and with the ability to concentrate. I'm sure it's interesting if it withstood so many repeat readings for you. Feel free to chat anytime and all that good stuff. I'm still most fascinated by the DISAPPEARED series. I like DEADLY WOMEN too even though the reenactments are so over the top. I sort of like the visual style of the show and I love Candace Delong's analysis. Cheers.