Broad Target Demographics

I don’t watch a whole lot of television, and when I do, it’s usually “infotainment” – something like MythBusters, or a documentary, or whatever. I’m not sure why, but for the last couple weeks I’ve been catching a new-ish police drama called Southland, which is surprisingly good, all things considered. Pretty real, pretty believable characters doing pretty real, pretty believable police work, in south Los Angeles. What’s not to like?

I have a nagging feeling it’s trying to capitalize on the success of “The Wire” from a year or two back (which I never watched), and I’m not really sure what the target demographic is. Given the makeup of the cast, I’m going to cynically guess middle-income women between 25 and 45, but I could be way off. (Not to incriminate myself or anything, but I happen to watch the show in such a way that I don’t see the commercials, so I get fewer clues to the target demographic than might otherwise be the case.)

However, I think the show is – or should be – quite popular with another demographic, as well.

Hate the po-po? Like to rant endlessly on about how abusive and brutal police are? Like to condemn an entire profession every time a single bad apple bobs up to the top? Are you an anarchist, convinced The Man is evil? Dude, this is the show for you.

In fact, if you and your friends hate “the pigs”, you should totally get together and watch Southland. Turn it into a drinking game – every time one of the (messed-up) characters does something that you perceive to be bad, drink. Be warned – if you’re one of those crazy copwatch idiots, your liver might not make it to the ending credits.

I mean, brief synopsis, how I imagine the cop-haters see it: Crime happens. Police arrive en masse, in uniform, generally terrorizing the neighborhood: drink. Officer cracks insensitive joke about victim of crime: drink. Officers in uniform, with sidearms, canvass the neighborhood for clues, further terrorizing and intimidating the residents: drink. Elsewhere, other officers are involved in something else. One of the male officers, in the midst of a male-dominated environment, makes a sexist joke or otherwise inappropriately teases one of the female officers: drink. Officers get dispatched to a crime, respond with lights and sirens, needlessly frightening the neighbors and endangering the lives of other motorists: drink. Along the way, one needles the rookie about being from a nice part of town (“They got gangs in Beverly Hills, Richie Rich?”), thereby displaying elitist, classist attitudes: drink. Officers arrive, use harsh and impolite language in an attempt to convince the accused suspect to surrender: drink. Officers chase the accused: drink. Officers use force (excessive force, of course!) to subdue the suspect: drink. Commercial break.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. From what I’ve gathered from wandering around the web, actual police officers generally seem to like the show, saying it’s a reasonably realistic depiction of actual big-city policing by actual big-city police. (As opposed to some of the ubermensch cop shows of the past…) I doubt anarchists and anti-police activists watch much television, and jokes about drinking games aside, I’m not sure they should. Southland is very good, very gripping entertainment, but if you try to read more into it, you’re going to see what you expect or want to see, and nothing more. That’s probably true of any television show or movie, of course, but occasionally it’s interesting to stop and think about how other folks view things.

(To be fair, I bet there is no television show or movie, anywhere, which a truly obsessive activist can’t find some enormous sociopolitical fault with. Titanic: capitalist greed kills people, wrecks the environment. Disney’s Ice Age: heterosexual meat-eating manimals bury heads in sand, refuse to acknowledge environmental disaster, survive anyway. That 70s Show: white bourgeois pigs promote gender and racial stereotypes, repeat anti-drug propaganda. Saving Private Ryan: a white heterosexual male celebration of war and violence that fails to adequately recognize the significant contributions of women and minorities in WWII. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: rich white authoritarian people engage in violent xenophobia and perpetrate negative stereotypes about lesbians and their relationships. Lord of the Rings: glorifies xenophobia, imperialism; has like four women in the entire trilogy, all but one of whom do nothing but fulfill traditional female stereotypes…)

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on May 12th, 2009| Comments Off on Broad Target Demographics

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