The line between actual crime-solving and its mega-representation on TV
Crime has been the subject of popular culture — from art and literature to television and movies — since the beginning of, well, crime. Complex murder mysteries and engaging crime-solving thrillers from Sherlock Holmes to CSI have not only captivated audiences, but assisted young people in discovering their future careers. This, then, leaves a thick, bold chalk-outline between real, existent crime-solving tools and some of the fictional, fabricated or stretched technologies found on some of the nation’s favorite shows.
An uncountable amount of crime shows have emerged in the last two decades, consistently topping ratings — CSI and its many different spin-offs, NCIS, Law & Order, Cold Case, and Bones. And just in the last two years, more crime shows — from psychological thriller to laugh-out-loud comedy — have erupted on Netflix, prime time, network and subscription television: Criminal Minds, Gotham, How to Get Away with Murder, Brooklyn 99, The Following, True Detective, and The Mysteries of Laura, with many missing from the list.
Real-life crime specialists in the careers these shows convey often have a few qualms with their plotlines: lawyers cringe as evidence is mishandled or illegally seized; Crime Scene Investigators laugh at the idea of such big-budget technology showing up in the smallest of precincts; forensic technicians dream for the kind of enhancement technology that finds the blurriest of license plates, face recognitions and other smoking guns; coroners wonder why nobody ever turns on the lights in CSI’s gloomy morgue.
There’s even research on what people are calling “The CSI Effect” — the idea that a juror may actually be influenced by popular crime scene shows. Although the theory is debated, it still means that more evidence, presented in great detail is expected of juries more than ever before.
Students headed into the criminal justice field need to know what crime-solving techniques are real and what is a stretch. Studying criminal justice provides “theoretical, practical and professional knowledge to be successful in law enforcement, corrections, courts, probation, parole, private security and other related service careers”.
Tales of Justice has talked before about how sometimes, people pursue degrees in Criminal Justice based on what they see on TV. It simply isn’t true.
If what you love about these shows isn’t the drama, dark rooms or their twists and turns, but rather the pursuit of justice and finding your place on a forensics, investigations, legal or police team, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a great place to start.