I blame O.J.
Once upon a time, when cable news networks were still in their infancy, America was glued to their television sets to watch the O.J. Simpson trial. It was the first time people decided that they didn’t want their court room drama wrapped up all nice and neat in an hour (minus commercial breaks). The People’s Court, Perry Mason and Matlock weren’t enough for them anymore! I know this because my mother insisted on watching it. We were moving, and spending a couple nights in a motel while the movers were en route to our new house with our stuff and I remember distinctly being bored out of my skull while she watched the E! Network for all the latest info. That was the beginning of the end!
After OJ, they launched a network called CourtTV (now I think it’s called TRU). The purpose of this network was to televise trials, constantly. Not just the big name celebrity ones, but random ass murder trials from across the nation. The problem that they had, was that none of these trials were quite as compelling as OJ. Then they figured out how to do it. First they had to find the trial that had something juicy about it… usually it involved a pretty girl. Then they had to decide the matter of guilt or innocence ahead of time. After that… you got someone like Nancy Grace to go on and on about how this person or that was obviously guilty! That’s how you get your Casey Anthony’s and Jodi Arias’. But neither of them changed the paradigm like the OJ Trial. Sure, reality TV was already around… The Real World was in it’s third season by this time. But the people on that show, generally went on to live normal lives. Like appearing on a game show, there was no expectation of having a career in television afterward. They weren’t celebrities! That changed after this trial.
Consider if you will the Judge Ito comedy sketches. Think about the fact that Kato “I was just a house guest” Kaelin has been trading on his trial appearance ever since. Had Johnnie “If the glove don’t fit” Cochran won another high profile case like this, his name would be to lawyering what John Hancock is to signing one’s name! Everybody became a celebrity off of this case. Robert Kardashian himself managed to stay pretty low key. But, his daughter Kim “I’m mostly famous for having lack-luster unimpressive sex with Brandy’s little brother on camera” Kardashian has traded on the family connection to the OJ Trial. So we’re looking in our televised trials, for celebrities. And if there aren’t any? We make them!
Casey Anthony was found to be Not Guilty by a jury of her peers. Does that matter? Well, not to most people. They still think she did it. Don’t get me wrong, I still think OJ did it and he got off too. The difference is, OJ was a public figure before his trial. A bona fide football star and movie actor. He was used to public scrutiny and attention. But what about a normal person who can’t get a job now because she’s “that lady from that trial”? She had normal person money to fall back on…which means she didn’t have any! Well, at least not enough to live for the rest of her life without regular employment. What is she to do?
And Jodi Arias… honestly! The only reason we heard about this case was cuz she’s pretty! She might even be better off than Casey Anthony because she was found guilty. She doesn’t have to worry about money anymore! The state’s gonna give her three hots and a cot for the rest of her life (however long or short that may be). But she’s (in)famous now… because she killed a guy. Not ten guys, or a hundred guys, or a thousand guys. Just one! Is that the Cheers (the bar for having everybody know your name) now?
And the latest addition, George Zimmerman. The truth doesn’t matter, the trial does. The show must go on. But we can cut the opening act, lawyers shouldn’t tell jokes in the courtroom!
Listen, I get it! People want to see this stuff! But that doesn’t make it right! Yes! Justice should be a matter of public record but it’s gone beyond that now! The process has become a public spectacle! It’s a modern version of witch trials and lynchings. All we need now is to roll the guillotine back out into the public square! If you don’t have a hangin’ tree in front of your court house, plant one now! By the time it’s ready to use, America will have degenerated to the point that it’ll be necessary! It’s the final frontier people! That last piece of the puzzle. It’s time to get a camera in the lethal injection chamber already! We televise the investigations. We televise the trial. Now let’s line up the modern firing squad of cameras and televise punishments!
Well, you can do that! I’m gonna stick to the scripted entertainment! When is Franklin & Bash on again!?