If you love picking scabs, then have I got a TV show for you.
Did you make it through 12 Years a Slave? I didn’t. I couldn’t. Life is too short. And I kind of wonder how many of the Oscar voters did. The critics who complained that The Passion of the Christ was torture porn somehow found it redemptive.
12 Years director John Ridley is now the showrunner for American Crime, an almost universally praised new drama on ABC that tries to take a cable-TV style “edgy” look at race and crime in America. But the show is not just relentlessly grim, it is so caught up with its narrative that it forgets to think about how things really happen. It might as well be called “Alternate Universe American Crime.”
In Modesto, CA, a mostly white city with an apparently an all white, uncaring power structure, a recently returned Army vet and his wife are brutally attacked in a home invasion, leaving the vet dead and his wife in a coma.
The vet’s parents are a recovering gambling addict (Timothy Hutton) and his ferociously embittered wife (Felicity Huffman).
The main clue is a distinctive car seen leaving the murder scene, which is soon traced to Tony, a Latino teenager whose overly strict and protective father, Alonzo (Benito Martinez of The Shield), has been restoring the car in his auto repair shop.
Alonzo tells his son to cooperate with the police and Tony fingers a scary Mexican gangbanger who intimidated him into letting him use the car for under the table cash. In turn, the gangbanger unconvincingly (to everyone but the law enforcement system) blames a black junkie in love with a white junkie, who seem to be the only people in this story capable of unconditional love. (Because junkies are the least self-centered people, you know.)
Soon, everyone is caught up in a brutally uncaring—and stupid—justice system.
Like Crash at the Oscars, I bet the Emmys swoon over this garbage.
Passive Media after a Racially Charged Crime
A home invasion murder in a decent neighborhood is about as uncommon as crime gets—and would lead local news. The victim being a veteran would make it national news. The fact that a major suspect is an illegal alien gangbanger… well you get the idea.
However, aside from the occasional TV truck and a young, dogged small newspaper reporter, there is no media involvement.
In fact, it takes a white rights group on the mother’s side and a Nation of Islam sister (the usually wonderful Regina King) to the (illogical) main suspect to get even significant local coverage.
Really? THOSE are the relative positions on race in America?
American Crime is clearly trying to make a statement post-Ferguson, post Eric Green, etc. But ignoring the role of constant media drumbeats and posturing makes American Crime seem like it’s taking place in some distant world without cable television.
White Cops Shoot Fleeing Brown People with Impunity
When police close in on the Latino gangbanger in a strip mall parking lot, they quickly cut him off with patrol cars. As he runs toward a store in the strip mall, a white cop shoots him in the leg from behind.
Really? The guy is surrounded, not holding a weapon, and he is headed toward an occupied, open store in broad daylight with a large glass window. There is even a point made with the window, as the bullet passes through the suspect and puts a hole in it—which I’m sure had the director and cinematographer congratulating each other.
This goes unremarked on afterward, save for some whining by the suspect in the hospital.
Wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels.
In Modesto, cops also have no BS meter whatsoever. They just grab the first suspect and ignore contrary evidence on the word of a nasty career criminal. Apparently, this is their first encounter with a manipulative suspect.
They are equally insensitive to the victims. The all but faceless white lead detective’s interrogation of the daughter after she awakens from the coma does not exhibit evidence of a triple figure IQ.
The idiotic shooting episode starts at 2:29 in the series trailer.
Cooperative Latino Kid Gets Jailed Anyway
If there was ever a candidate to be released to his father’s custody, it’s Tony, a young, scared boy with a supportive father who willingly cooperates with the police, delivers them their main suspect, and obviously had no idea about any crime being committed. But he is suddenly handcuffed and thrown in jail by uncaring white cops. (See the trailer at about the 2:50 mark.)
Because, I guess, overcrowding isn’t a problem in Modesto, and they have unlimited budgets for juvies and cops to stomp on cooperative witnesses because they don’t want any more to come forward?
The Latino Father Striving for the American Dream is a Sucker
After Alonzo tells the television reporter that illegal gangbangers make all Latinos look bad, La Raza types paint graffiti on his auto repair shop. He tries to paint it over with white paint, then he get some on his face… get it? Whitewash? Whiteface? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink?
And what did all his hard work get him? Treated with contempt by the system and banned from Sunday mass for ticking off the Sanctuary Movement types.
Alonzo’s ungrateful kids accuse him of wanting to be white, because he works hard and tries to keep them out of the trouble he knows plagues their community.
By the way, I bet you didn’t know that what really pushes kids into gangs is overly protective fathers.
Alonzo is a humorless drudge; and there is not one person in American Crime you’d like to spend five minutes with, much less sit through a whole beer. The theme of American Crime is not just America Sucks, but Americans Suck. We are all just a collection of grievances and resentments, or victims and victimizers. And if you don’t realize it, you’re just a sucker like Alonzo.
Take everything you hated about Crash, double it, and you have American Crime.
Time to go watch a few episodes of The Wire and get this garbage out of my head.