Portrayal of Crime on The mentalist





Portrayal of Crime on The mentalist

The Mentalist is a television series about an observant and analytic consultant who helps the police and the FBI to solve various crimes. Patrick Jane plays the role of the mentalist. He is charming but many people find his wit irritating especially when he is able to observe the clues they had overlooked in their investigations. He is rarely wrong and he has an excellent way of observing human behavior. In episode 8 of season 7, Jane works with the FBI to protect a witness to a murder case, after the first witness is murdered. He provides insights on how the investigators can limit their search by narrowing down a list of suspects. He also provides assistance on the strategies they will use to protect the witness. There is danger and suspense, there are times when the investigators involved do not know who to look for, and there are times when people bond socially. However, other moments in the episode are more a reflection of the TV experience, which tends to focus more on entertainment than on presenting issues realistically.

In this episode, a crime family hires an assassin to assassinate the only two people who were there when one of the sons committed murder. The first witness dies at the front of the courthouse. The assassin kills him along with two investigators and the realtor who showed him the house where he plans the executions. When the investigators arrive at the scene, Jane is able to establish that they are dealing with a local man. He uses clues based on what the man was eating. The investigators are able to use their previous knowledge to determine who the targets might be. When Jane and the investigators visit the home of the major suspect, he is able to pick up clues that help in solving the case. Jane is an expert in human behavior and he is able to tell that the woman interviewed is lying.

The media thrives on creating as much drama as possible as a way of appealing to a larger audience. Fictional television has a way of over dramatizing and romanticizing the way it presents the police. It often focuses on the officers’ heroism and professionalism (Dowler 111). The media is aware that most people are more concerned with events that lead to extreme danger. Therefore, the more shootings and murders an episode has, the more likely it is to attract a larger audience. Hence, it was necessary for the first four murders to take place. Creation of suspense adds to the mystery and this increases people’s attention. This is seen when one of the first suspects is killed and when the killer plans his next move. The media also deals with entertainment. It has to find ways of ensuring that the audience is entertained. The blossoming relationship between Jane and agent Lisbon as well as the growing friendship between Wiley and Vega are ways of breaking the monotony of dealing with crime. They focus on the investigators social lives.

One of the main unrealistic representations of crime television is that all cases have to be solved at the end of the day. The investigators depend on technology, the wit and wisdom of the chief investigator, and the presence of witnesses. Their crime solving tends to be predictable since the actors are reading from a script. Therefore, situations always turn out as expected. Presentation of the police is often over dramatized and romanticized in crime television. Realistically the investigators often have a hard time trying to solve a case (Hughes 260). They often do not have clues and they are not knowledgeable on every single issue. They do not usually have a list of famous criminals. Statistically, the police do not solve as many crimes as people would want to believe.

One of the main features of crime television is the ease with which the police are able to find evidence. Somehow, there is always a piece of hair or spilled blood, which the investigators use to find the people who were involved in the crime. Such crimes have become synonymous with DNA, since it is the main tool used for identification. Another thing that beats reality is that the crime scenes are barely contaminated. This makes it easier for the investigators to collect the evidence they need. However, this is not the reality. It is not always easy to collect evidence in a crime scene. This may be because of contamination or simply because the evidence does not exist. In the TV episode, it was relatively easy for Jane to come up with a way of identifying the suspects. This is not always the case. Moreover, the police do not always work with consultants and not all the police departments in the country can afford the expensive forensic equipment that has become a staple in every show.

A major feature of crime television is that the current case is given top priority and the selected team of officers has to work on it until they catch the perpetrators. This undermines the work that the police have to do everyday. Many police departments, especially those in large cities, have a backlog of cases, which they are dealing with when a crime happens. Therefore, they are not able to prioritize a case just because it has happened at that time. They do not always have the means to complete their cases quickly and many cases take a long time to solve. This is because in reality, events are not predictable. Moreover, the police do not always have the resources to test every piece of evidence at the crime scene (Hughes 260). This delays the possibility of catching the suspects. In this episode, Jane and his team have to work on the case and they complete it in record time. They are able to use technology and they depend on the predictability of crime television to determine what the perpetrator will do next.

Most police officers and investigators depend on traditional ways of carrying out investigations as a way of solving crime. They look for, and talk to witnesses, to tell them what they saw. In many cases, they are able to find the evidence they need. Many of the investigators and police concentrate more on finding hard scientific data instead of talking to the witnesses. In many cases, such shows do not always have witnesses. This means that the investigators have to depend on their knowledge and resources as a way of solving crime. In this episode, the investigators do not have any witness. This is despite the fact that the murders happened in a major city with many people. Nobody saw the suspect with his first victim. This means that the investigators have to use scientific data to get any information they need to solve the case.

Despite concentrating on the entertainment factor, the episode does have some realistic representation in it. For instance, only two women are strongly involved in the case. This shows the reality of law enforcement in the country. Men are highly represented in the field. Data collected in 2008 indicate that there were 90000 sworn officers in the country and only 20% of these were women (Langton 1). Therefore, the episode is realistic in this aspect. The episode is also realistic in showing the danger that the officers face whenever they are in the field. According to the FBI statistics of 2013, 76 law enforcement officers died in the field and 49851 officers were victims of assault (FBI). This shows the danger associated with police work. In the episode, two FBI agents are killed and one is seriously injured. Their death and injuries are a result of criminal acts and not accidents. The officers are in constant danger whenever they are in the line of duty. Even though they do try to take precautionary measures, they are not always able to have a clear perception of the situation.

Another element, which makes the episode more believable and realistic, is the combination of professional and social life. Police officers and investigators are not always working. They usually take the time off to engage in social activities. Jane and agent Lisbon are in a club when they get a call from the office. Wiley and Vega compete in a video game as the series ends. The police have other interests and hobbies rather apart from their official duties. The seriousness of a situation does not mean that they have to put their lives on hold. Hence, the episode is realistic in its depiction of social gatherings and friendly interactions.

Fictional television crime is a combination of fantasy and reality. The producers want to provide entertainment. At the same time, they want to make the stories they present meaningful and relevant. This informs their decision to incorporate some real life aspects in the show. The Mentalist uses both strategies of entertainment and reality. By doing this, it is able to appeal to a larger audience. This is the ultimate goal of crime television producers.

Works Cited:

Dowler, Kenneth. “Media Consumption and Public Attitudes toward Crime and Justice: The Relationship between Fear of Crime, Punitive Attitudes, and Perceived Police Effectiveness.” Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture 10.2 (2003): 109-126

FBI. “FBI Releases 2013 Statistics on Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted.” Federal Bureau of Investigation. 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 9 Oct. 2015

Hughes, Megan. “The Perceived Impact of Crime Scene Investigation Shows on the Administration of Justice.” Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture 14.3 (2007): 259-277

Langton, Lynn. “Crime Data Brief: Women in Law Enforcement, 1987-2008.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2010. Web. 9 Oct. 2015.

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