It is no secret that I consume an inordinate amount of trashy crime drama on TV. When I saw this recently, I was downright jealous. I would do something like that if I had the time.
A few Sundays ago, at 9 on the nose, I fired up the tube for another scintillating episode of CSI: Miami.
Law & Order, with its ripped-from-the-headlines scripts, has never hesitated to make a political statement or two. The CSI franchise, not so much. Miami and the original Las Vegas, in fact, seem to have crossed firmly into camp a good bit of the time.
The Sunday I watched, however, it felt like the CSI:Miami writers were trying to score some cheap points with the talk radio demographic. I was not impressed. My evidence?
The set-up: Suddenly, Miami’s Mala Noche gang, from Brazil, has upped the chaos and violence levels. Memmo, a heavily tattooed gang member who killed Horatio’s wife and escaped from prison, is a key member of the gang.
It starts to dawn on me that something’s up: Horatio & his team, responding to a tip, thwart a massacre on a tourist bus. One of the bad guys gets clipped by a bullet. Painful, but not life-threatening. The team, pumping him for information, tells him he’ll get to go to the hospital for treatment just as soon as he gives up the info they’re looking for, so he squeals. Then, he asks them to make good on their promise to send him to the hospital. Horatio sneers as he walks away:
You ain’t got the insurance.
Huh, I thought. I guess the writers were running out of ridiculous one-liners, but in a scene that started with the intended hijacking of a bus, maybe something like “why don’t you take the bus” might have made more sense than commentary on who does or doesn’t have health insurance or the right to seek treatment.
Oh, here’s how you up the evil these days. Cue several different scenes, one involving the gang members themselves, where the violent, murderous, drug-dealing gang is framed as “learning from our Mexican brothers” as far as becoming more violent, more murderous, and more drug-dealing. So, clearly, in this day and age, an easy way to up the scary factor on a drug-dealing, murdering gang is to say they’re learning from the Mexican gangs. Because these days, nothing scares a red-blooded Uhmeruhkin like a Mexican.
Side note: if they’re learning to be extra-scary from Mexican gangs, where are they going for fashion advice? Half the guys in the gang are wearing truly fabulous silk shirts that are Lilly Pulitzer meets Emilio Pucci. They look fabulous.
OK, now you’re just being heavy-handed. In the final scene, Horatio has trapped Memmo on a yacht, disarmed him, and has him on his knees. They engage in an operatic now-I-will-kill-you/now-I-will-die exchange in which Memmo asks Horatio if killing him makes Horatio a righteous man. Horatio responds:
I am a servant of the taxpayers.
WTF? The bad-ass Horatio Caine has his wife’s assassin on his knees, gun to head, on a yacht which might even be in international waters, and he says I am a servant of the taxpayers?!?!?!
Now, I didn’t expect Horatio would actually shoot Memmo, because that’s not how the character rolls. I just didn’t expect the taxpayers to come into it.
I think there are those who walk among us who, when pulled over for, let’s say, a speeding ticket, would really like to tell the cop to buzz off because hey, buddy, I pay your salary with my taxes. I think this line was written for them.
I don’t take television too seriously, but I do think that, like other forms of art, it mirrors our culture. What I saw reflected in this episode—anti-Mexican bigotry, the implication that bad people (or maybe foreign people) don’t deserve health care, and kowtowing to the “I pay your taxes so you work for me” attitude—doesn’t paint a very pretty picture.