An insight by Andrew Howie
The growth of the modern day crime based drama has been steady over the last ten years. The origin of the genre is hard to pin point, but the Godfather series and success of such shows as The Sporano’s can definitely share in credit for the boom.
The ability for big screen ideas to be converted to the small screen has been tried many times with varied success. Taking the crime thriller from the big screen and maintaining the conviction is difficult. But it leads to enthralling viewing.
Whilst I am a huge fan of the Soprano’s and loved my weekly dose of gangster viewing, I have not taken to Underbelly with equivalent interest. I am not sure why this is. I am trying to figure out if it is the different style of writing, the local actors, or my knowledge that it is based on real events that have transpired in Australia?
What I do know is that I have a big issue with crime being portrayed as glamorous. I understand that the lifestyle of those in these series is attractive, with the sex, drugs, notoriety and money that comes from their exploits. But I feel that the writers and producers of these shows have a duty to ensure that the characters are portrayed in the correct light.
These are not people who you want to have over for dinner to the family home. They are rapist, murderers, stand over men and villains of the highest order. And the fact that so many of them remain at large is testament to the lengths they will go to avoid conviction. Not to mention the depths the corruption seeps within the police force, taking bribes and turning a blind eye to witness disappearances and illegal prostitution to name just a few….
So what is it that draws people to watch these shows? And what is it that allows us to suspend the reality around the fact that what we are viewing is all true, but polished to be more digestible?
Are we willing to look past this to enjoy good drama? Or are we in fact sucked in by the story line and lose sight of the deeper secrets behind the plot?
My concern lies in that with the increase in violence in society, we need have a heightened awareness of what we are viewing. We complain that kids are playing graphic computer games and have access to more and more content on the internet. Yet we glorify the actions of these real life individuals and portray their lives as though they are the modern day Ned Kelly.
Which leads me with the lasting question: Why do we allow television dramas to escape this caution and censorship? And by doing so, what message are we really sending?