• Sarah

Phase 1- Theme: Crime as entertainment

Updated: May 5, 2019

Exploring the topic

Case study: The murder of Jill Dando (Folder)

During the 1990’s Jill Dando was a presenter of BBC Crimewatch, which appealed to the audience for information about crimes. In 1999 she was shot on the doorstep of her home in West London just before midday. Due to her being a public figure there was increased interest in this case, however the nature of her job created a hysteria of motives relating to her job. There was no witnesses to the crime and no forensic evidence which made the crime all more interesting. This led to an appeal for information on Crimewatch about her murder, this resulted in over 2000 phones calls; which proved difficult to sort though. A suspect was found guilty of her murder with circumstance evidence, however he was later acquitted. This is still an unsolved case.

This case really interests me, its the unthinkable. It's an example of dramatic tragedy, unfortunately crime attracted crime with Dando, it is now widely believed that Dando was assassinated.

Jill Dando

Case study: The pardon of Alan Turing (Folder)

The great codebreaker, who cracked the enigma code was continuing his groundbreaking work in groundbreaking into the 1950's when he was found guilty of 'gross indecency' in relation to a relationship he had with another male. This led to him accepting 'punishment' of chemical castration. It shows a horrible attitude and treatment towards the homosexual community that is quite frankly unconceivable. In 2013, Turing was officially pardoned of his crime, 59 years after his apparent suicide (now believed to been accidental exposure of cyanide). It was questioned why it was needed, when "what's done is done" "what's the point?" (Sir Clive Sinclair). Which shows a concerning lack of equality and fairness in regards to gay men. It was another 3 years before, Turing Law came into place, pardoning all men convicted of this crime (65,000 men, 15,000 of whom were still alive).

This was good to look at, Turing's celebrity status was somewhat revoked (somewhat infamous) following his conviction which is questionable. He was committed of a crime that should never have been a crime, one that was not for heterosexuals, a blatant example of inequality.

Alan Turing

Additional case studies (Folder)

I additionally looked at 3 other case studies as broad examples of crime within the media and its different effects. These included the Dunblane massacre (1996) which led to the banning of private gun ownership in the UK. This one school shooting of 29 five and six-year-olds, along with their teacher, had considerable effect on the compassion of policy makers. There has been no school shootings in the UK since then. It makes me question why the USA cannot fathom the removal of their second amendment which has been proven to save lives.

I also looked at the OJ Simpson case (1995). When OJ Simpson was connected with the murder of his ex-wife it had the world hooked. He was a national icon of America and it heated up the race problem once again within LAPD. His defence team used this against the prosecution to create a favourable jury, containing a majority of black women. Something the defence believed would be favourable for Simpson. Despite evidence (DNA, clothes found at the scene) and eyewitnesses within the timeline (OJ had no alibi, yet eyewitnesses saw him driving his Ford Bronco within the area), OJ Simpson was found not guilty of the crime. This trial was a huge spectacle world-wide. It used equality to question the prosecution and won.

I finally looked at the Disappearance of Madeleine Mccann. When Maddie, went missing in 2007 at the tender age of 3, she was on hoilday in Portugal with her family and family friends. Maddie, as were the other children, were left in their rooms sleeping wile there parents had dinner within a close proximity at the resort. When she was not found on a check by her mother she was reported missing and so a world wide appeal began. The case has had countless controversy many accusing Kate and Gerry (Madeleine's parents) of profiting off the back of their daughters disappearance. There has also been the question of equality, with an extraordinary effort to find Maddie in comparison to other missing children. Operation Grange, led by Scotland Yard has been funded continuously for 8 years, with them coming no closer to finding Maddie's abductor. Maddie's parents status as white, middle-class, doctors has raised questions over the interest in the case and whether this has given them advantages in finding their child within the policing system

Visual references (Sketchbook 1 pp.32-35)

I chose a variety of depictions of crime ranging from photos, illustrations and examples of evidence (i.e. fingerprints, criminal profiles etc.) From here two styles emerged, somewhat noir and high contrast illustration. The depiction of the murder scene in a museum and its spectacle was quite concerning but a very thought provoking drawing. The infamous photo of the Kray Twins depicted in their usual gangster get-up gives the east-end duo a nostalgic prominence. In the upper right of my sketchbook is the somewhat strange mugshot of a man in Sydney, what you typically expect/hope when you hear of a murderer. Alexander Pavlemko's depiction of Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Saville's Crime, has a really interesting composition of two scenes demonstrating fall and escape. My favourite image is Øivind Hovland's crime fiction piece, in black and red. It shows the escape of a murder, with unknowing people inside their house. The use of colour is excellent, it took me a while to spot there was crime, much like the people in their house I imagine.

Visual research

Visual research

General research and making connections (Bookmarks and journals: Folder)

Within the case studies, equality was a theme that kept cropping up this led me to question the definition of equality. I found that it originated beyond the 1800 hundreds originating from the latin world 'aequalitas', meaning equal and the english word equal. It is defined as "the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities." Which is quite subjective and made me question how do you find a common ground between people who think differently about what equality is. This problem can be best seen between philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Plato's philosophy grants the opinion of "equality is equal outcomes" and that equality is achieved through democracy by degenerating oligarchy. Where as Aristotle's philosophy is inline with "equality is equal opportunities" in which you can't make an unequal thing equal.

By looking at these philosophies of equality, I furthered the research of equality the crime genre. Here I found that inequality is a driving murder rates up. It' said that, "When inequality is high and strips large numbers of men of the usual markers of status - like a good job and the ability to support a family - matters of respect and disrespect loom disproportionately". In the case of inequality qualities such as honour and social status became all of these men's identity and when questioned they have resounding effect. It's believed that half of all murders in the USA fall under this category, "other argument", showing the disastrous effects of inequality on crime.

I then went on to look at another area, crime as entertainment. I discovered that this stems back to the Victorian era where there was the first reporting of murder trials in newspapers. The spectacle that ensued from public executions extended to the opening of touring waxwork museums that would recreate crime scenes along with waxworks of victim and murderer. This is quite horrifying and I am glad were a bit more sensitive in regards to that these days. This also extended to them selling mementos from the real crime scene, which was hugely popular. Overall it shows a continuing fascination with crime, its not something that has just appeared over recent years.

VIctorian waxwork museum crime scene

The purpose of crime genre is the "exploration of human nature through the investigator and characters they investigate, the plot acts as a discovery of both people and place". They keep viewers hanging with unlimited possibilities of ending, keeping crime series interesting for viewers. The medias approach to crime contributes to the hysteria in crime as entertainment. They create dramatisation within crime reports in order to make it newsworthy. In turn the public form opinions about the crime and deviance that they have been informed about and it feeds this media cycle which is questionable about its honesty. It leads into the preconceived narrative that the media want to portray. However over time the public have become more sceptical and are less likely to believe the media. Along with this manipulation, true crime does not give care for the bereaved families of victims, who have no say to opt out of media coverage, caring only for the viewers interest.

Crime entertainment is somewhat part of British culture, as it brings us together and shows our similarities via general opinion over the appalling crime in question. Yet the with the developments from traditional crime drama to forensics to are they guilty? the Great British Detective series still remain strong. This can be seen with long running series such as Midsomer Murders (however with a very niche market of over 70's and myself!). The modern crime drama took a great hike at the end of last year on the BBC with 'Bodyguard' and 'Killing Eve', however there are plenty more interesting examples of latest British crime dramas. 'Luther', 'Broadchurch' and 'A Very British Scandal' to name a few. However one of my personal favourite is 'Life on Mars'. With the detective character of Gene Hunt giving a glimpse into the issues of the police force during the 1970's and 1980's. Unhinged, he epitomises the qualities of a great detective. As “the leading sense makers” great detectives qualities include such being a rule breaker, exceptional intellect, experienced expertise, being an outsider and suffering from challenges and psychological traumas help to create engaging detectives; they are the focuses of their TV shows.

Gene Hunt | Detective character 'Life on Mars'

Compared to other genres, crime still holds up stereo-typical overwhelmingly white and male lead characters. Crime authors Steph Cha and AA Dhand are tackling this through their novels. Cha explains that its not about "walking around thinking how Korean I am in any given situation", it demonstrates that its not about the characters difference but wanting heritage and identity to be in the background. Dhand explains that there were no characters in crime for him to align too growing up in the genre. His books challenges this with the lead role of a British Asian Sikh detective. However despite moves in the literary genre, in the field and through characters, diversity is till rare. There is still yet to be a contemporary Asian detective on western screens.

Illustrator: Simone Massoni (Sketchbook 1 pp.38-39)

When looking for artists I came across the illustration work of Simone Massoni who created a series of illustrations for 'The New Yorker' in their crime issue. They depicted highly visual, noir-esque scenes with pops of yellow amongst the black and white. The contrasting use of filled shapes and fine lines is really effecting in depicting the New York style and environment scenes. The serious is so effortless and portrays the noir scenes so perfectly amongst one another. I'm really fond of this style and am interested in how noir styling can be adapted.

Simone Massoni | Illustrations for 'Crime Issue' of 'The New Yorker'

Artist: Angela Strassheim (Sketchbook 1 p.40)

An interesting take on crime within the fine arts is with Angela Strassheim's series"Evidence", here she explores previous crime scenes. From exteriors of photos you would not know what had gone in inside. A notable image shows a typical American suburban house on clear summers day, a murder took place inside it. As well as this she photos graphs the luminol stains of rooms detailing blood splatters. She believes that there is "a memory embedded in the walls of a house" and this can be physically scene with the luminol splatters. Its quite sinister yet reminiscent of Pollock's art. I'm really not sure how to feel looking at these, the compositions are nice but I can't look beyond the blood splatter and its scale.

Angela Strassheim | Evidence

Artist: Teresa Margolles (Sketchbook 1 p.41)

Margolles grew up around violence in a very violent part of Mexico, Its something she has come to expect, however she did not expect that a fellow artist-friend of hers would have this fate. She explores this through one of her travelling pieces of work, which features the tiles in which her friend was murdered on. Despite heavy cleaning, blood splatter and luminol remains. She also explores this notion of murder through a collection of newspapers from 2010. The collection of 313 front pages from a single newspaper, account for 313 drug-war related murders in Mexico in that year alone. Margolles' work stems from real concern, this is demonstrated in 313, however the tile piece is particularly heart-wrenching.

Teresa Margolles | Levantamiento y traslado donde cayo el cuerpo asesinado del artista Luis Miguel Suro

Book: Crime Watching: Investigating Real Crime TV (Folder)

This helped me to understand the viewers experience of watching real crime. It demonstrates its not as simple as being part of who we are but instead a cathartic experience that we can experience from the safety of our own homes. It explains how they have similar effect as soaps with a narrative climax which hooks the viewer. It demonstrated a loyal audience base in the case of Crimewatch with viewers feeling a sense of community which kept bringing up the question, for me, "is it concerning people are actively wanting to view crime? The viewers condemn the crime but are hooked.

Book | Crime Watching: Investigating Real Crime TV

Book: Criminal Visions: Media representations of crime and justice (Folder)

From this book I understood a new context of news media, the role of the police within the media. It demonstrates how the media report with and on the police, making sure they are held responsible in times of distrust. There is the portrayal of the police as "the gatekeepers to information", however we have to remember that they have to be careful not to foil a case by giving away critical information . There is also a need for the police to avoid press interference which could also jeopardise a case. Between the police and the media has formed a middle man of "media services" who reveal press releases ensuring blanket statements are made and continuity. However these media services question whether there is organisational advantage, can this help the police cover things up?

Book | Criminal Visions : Media Representations of Crime and Justice

This has identified my interests and a created a presentation structure for me:

  • My initial interest of other peoples interest in crime

  • what is our fascination with crime?

  • Crime entertainment in the Victorian era

  • The case of Jill Dando

  • What makes an engaging TV detective