October 15, 2007
To Catch a Cartman
Last week South Park kicked off the second part of its eleventh season with an episode entitled, Le Petit Tourette. In the episode, Cartman discovers the psychological affliction, “Tourette’s Syndrome”. And as we all know, Tourette’s is renowned by the inability to control when one curses an expletive. And much to Cartman delight, he claims to have Tourette’s and uses his “affliction” to berate his Jewish friend Kyle, Judaism and everyone and everything in the most vulgar and depraved language possible. Fortunately, Cartman’s new found ” freedom” has a catch(one which I won’t ruin for you, it’s pretty funny), and he has to attempt to get out of a interview with To Catch a Predator‘s Chris Hansen which he had scheduled earlier in the episode.
I bring this episode up because it got me thinking about the exploitive nature of To Catch a Predator and the questions it raises. The primary question being, why does this show bother me? It does a public service by catching child molesters in the act and turning them over to the proper authorities to be dealt with, who could object to that?
Well this guy Daniel Giuditta does.
In Giuditta’s video he voices the unpopular opinion that To Catch a Predator is no more than a smut film being played during prime time in order to grab ratings and advertising revenue. Giuditta equates the shows characters (child predator’s) to being train wrecks that while they may horrify and disgust us, we just can’t look away. Giuditta also has a problem with the civil “vigilante” group Perverted Justice that co-runs the “investigation”. The problem he has is that officially deputized members of the group are being paid by NBC for their services. Basically, official members of government are being paid by a corporation to perform a service that nets the corporation profits. Another word for this would be bribery.
The other problem is one of good journalistic taste. After 11 Dateline specials, I believe the journalistic portion of the show is no longer valid. Journalism by definition is supposed to illuminate new meaning or perspective on an issue or news item in order to convey additional information to the public so as to encourage civil discourse and encourage a more informed and enlighten population. Or at least that’s my definition, however I think many would agree. In addition I think many would agree that by this definition To Catch a Predator moved from an intriguing and shocking journalistic report to sensationalized non-news after the initial specials and certainly long before “episode” 11.
To put it simply, while the show may be entertaining, the journalist credit upon which its foundation rest is no longer there and the show is no more than the exploitation of America’s morbid curiosity.
It’s like Cops, only with sick perverts and a host that can make anyone sit down.