Special Victims vs Adam-12, or a Tale of Two Eras

Posted by Hiraghm 9 years, 7 months ago to Culture
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Here in the gulch, there have been many comments by participants critical of the police. Some I've agreed with, some I've felt were paranoia.

A couple years ago, I came across "Adam-12" reruns on the internet, and in the course of a week i watched the entire series. I was left with an aching sense of home-sickness.

As some here know, I watched "Law and Order: SVU" for awhile. Mostly because I liked Mariska Hargitay's eyes.

Today, in boredom, I flipped back and forth between SVU and Adam-12 (the latter is on Me-TV). The contrast was stunning. Sure, it could easily be laid at the feet of the "morals code" of television, whatever that may have been, but I sincerely believe that back then, SVU wouldn't have been able to stay on the air, just as nowadays Adam-12 really only appeals to old farts who remember when the country was a better place.

SVU deals with victims of sex crimes, often children. Every episode, the crime scene is gone over in great detail. References to genitalia, to bodily fluids, to physical trauma are common.

Adam-12 dealt with a variety of issues, sometimes social, sometimes just relating the difficulties of being a street cop in the LA of the late 60s/early 70s.

Today's episode, dealt with a little girl who came up missing. Not once... NOT ONCE was the word "rape" used. Never did they do more than obliquely refer to what happened to the child, other than, after his arrest, the desk sergeant informing Malloy and Reed that the man they arrested was on parole for child molestation. That's it. No details of what he did to the little girl. No graphic scenes of her suffering; the only evidence of the crime was some stuff child's toy and/or clothing Malloy spotted through the door as he was canvassing the neighborhood.

After kicking in the door, he pursued the child molester over half of LA, and when he caught the perpetrator, Malloy cuffed him. The molester kept turning, trying to argue with him, so Malloy slammed him against the wall, face first, then turned him around. The perpetrator then started going on about his rights, and Malloy slammed his back against the wall again, telling him, "I've got rights, too".

On SVU, this would be... a typical arrest.

Malloy got 4 days suspension, unpaid, and a mark on his record that would interfere with his making sergeant. Malloy took his punishment like a man, and repeatedly said that he was in the wrong. When Reed tries to comfort him by saying he'd do the same thing, Malloy gets that half smirk on his face and says, "..and you'd have been as wrong as I was."

I remember as I walked out of the theater after watching, "The Chronicles of Narnia"... I turned to my best friend, who'd read the books and gone to see the movie with me, "I feel clean." I got that same feeling today watching Adam-12.

The SVU story I was flipping between had something to do with gymnasts. I think one of them had been raped and murdered, but I really didn't pay all that much attention. Compare that to my description of Adam-12.

In a half hour, Adam-12 managed to tell a tale that grabbed my attention, made me care, and did it without graphic references to 'vaginal bruising' or statistical citations of the number of children who are molested by various demographics.

And there was a black and white line: the cops very clearly were the good guys. More than that, they were good men. Malloy was furious over what happened to the little girl (and elated to hear she was going to be okay), and he was a confirmed bachelor. Reed, the junior officer and a young husband (at one point in the series his wife was expecting) stepped in and dealt with the criminal calmly and professionally, giving Malloy a chance to calm down.
And the good guys agreed (I didn't) that Malloy was in the wrong. Nobody tried to justify it.

I remember from the early days of computer games. A game company that specialized in text-adventures, Infocom, had something like the following as their motto...
"The best graphics are in your imagination."

It was their way of competing with the growing number of graphic games, but there was also truth in that. More than one fictional character has said, "...it's what they *didn't* say..."

In telling their story, Adam-12 didn't say.. a lot. But they said what was necessary, and left the gory details to your imagination... which would make them as gory or as pristine as your own mind.

In our quest for 'reality', we've lost an awful lot, I'm afraid. And I'm wondering just how much the change in tv programming reflects modern culture... and how much it's shaped it.

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  • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 9 years, 7 months ago
    It has desensitized people and made shocking them more difficult. The evidence is in the crap coming out of hollywood and being shown on our TV's.

    btw I remember Adam-12, Emergency too
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  • Posted by 9 years, 7 months ago
    Oh, I forgot to add...

    In the episode of Adam-12, you never see the little girl. just a picture one cop hands to Malloy near the beginning. That's it.

    I remember the other day watching a rerun of SVU that I actually did find compelling. Olivia Bensen spent the entire episode on the phone with a little girl. The girl was from Honduras, and had been sold into sex-slavery. You never see her, but you hear her little voice. At first the cops are cynical, thinking Olivia's being played, but she won't give up, and finds proof that it's not only a real little girl, but that she was already in their records as a victim.

    At the end of the episode, they find her buried alive. You get to watch as they dig her up and revive her. Not sure that's an improvement over the hospital calling Malloy to tell him the little girl will be okay...
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    • Posted by $ Susanne 9 years, 7 months ago
      Back then, humanity was cheering for the good guy, for truth and honesty and, well, rightness to prevail. I can't think of many episodes of Emergency (yes, I still catch them on Me-TV too) where the victim was killed. When it was - EVERYONE was heartbroken. Because that's what people did, and how we were.

      Nowdays, our society is so far gone that people think nothing of mayhem, backstabbing, slaughter, bloodbaths, "pulling a deal" for yourself, and screw society, and sex, sex, and more sex... hopefully with an element of perversion or sadism thrown in. In fact - that's the norm.

      Thank the media - and these TV shows, who NEED people addicted to their trash - for what they've done to society. They did their job of brainwashing and propaganda well... to make sure they "get their ratings", and to keep the writers stimulated by living in their world of trash, violence, and ugliness.

      Remember LA Law when Roz stepped into the empty elevator shaft? THAT was scandalous at the time. Fast Forward to Zoe's getting murdered by Frank on House of Cards... and people took it as "Yep, SOP"...
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