After reading Charlie Brooker’s description of this bizarre slice of mainstream American television, I had to tune in. And after 20 minutes of tuning in, I had to tune out. This is the lowest piece of disturbing muck I think I’ve ever seen transmitted. Take your Big Brother gangster threats and race wars, take the inoffensive Heinz advert and shove those teacup-storms where the sun don’t shine – for ‘To Catch A Predator’ is the television show we should really be complaining about.
Brooker outlines the premise above, but to recap, it goes as follows:
- A fake 13 year old girl profile is set up by a group called Perverted Justice – a sensitively named pressure group who want to crush paedophiles.
- Weirdos respond to the profile.
- These frankly pathetic men indulge in sex talk with the fake individual who tells them her house is free of adults for the weekend.
- The ‘predator’ turns up at house and is lured in by a ‘petite 18 year old’ who is all sweetness and light.
- The minute the door is closed, Chris Hansen (who looks like the child-rapist in Happiness, by the way) assaults them with a barrage of their own sex talk from print outs of their online conversations.
- They try to escape and walk straight into the gun-sights of real American law enforcers.
- Unbelievably, we then see our new friends interviewed at the cop shop.
- Even more incredibly, we then see them up in front of a judge being sentenced to hard labour.
- We then move on to the next wannabe kiddy-diddler.
In the section I saw, Dallasbadboy2002 (oh how they revel in mocking their internet pseudonyms) – a father of two – was busted and a cock-ring found in his car – along with the standard discovery of rubber johnnys and lube.
Next up was Itnew2me – a 52 year old who went from claiming he was just going to sit and wait till the girl’s Mommy arrived home to be sure she was safe, to saying he was working for Jesus before settling on the fact that he may have a bit of a mental problem. Watching Itnew2me pour himself an icy cola as he went from one rationalisation to another was deeply unconfortable viewing.
Before I switched off I caught Rockandrollrule0281 who admitted in his online banter that he’d seen the show before. He still turned up, thinking it was an asian girl he was talking to, presumably assuming that in previous shows a caucasian girl had been used as the decoy. When he got inside he realised the girl wasn’t the asian he’d been promised and was busted immediately. His expression fell from worry to a kind of deep depression and realisation in a second. It was as though his impulse had been stemmed and he hadn’t a clue where he’d just been.
To be honest, if you weren’t aware of how he’d got hiomself in that situation then you might have felt a smidgen of sympathy for him. But then you recall that he had just married, only three weeks previously, and was in this situation as he was hoping to bone a child. It was hard to know what to make of him. Mr. Hyde was definitely superceding Dr. Jekyll that day, on a massive scale.
What got me about the whole exercise wasn’t so much the aspect of entrapment – American law is not something we can do much about, as viewers. I also felt numb to the ‘predators’. We’ve seen these kinds of people before and despite the fact they’re dangerous, sneaky, idiots who live their double lives in complete denial, there isn’t too much depth to them. They’re cowards, to put it simply.
The truly worrying facet of this stinking crapshow isn’t the legal point of view or the subject matter. It’s the glee ringmaster Chris Hansen appears to take in snaring the ‘predators’. He bathes in the glory of his position, using the enormous flaws in the twats he questions to get himself off.
It seems we’ve arrived at a point where we’re are so numb to the idea of children being abused that we’re prepared to allow the exploitation of the very notion of paedophilia to go on. Is it possible that by making mainstream shows which are so superficial in any exploration of the condition and are so over the top in every way that we’re making the crime in some way more acceptable? The more it’s discussed by morons on the TV and in the newspapers, the longer the issue is in the hands of idiots rather than experts. Most importantly, capturing sex criminals by any method simply isn’t the job of TV producers. The fact that the police collude with the TV network to make TCAP is beyond belief.
Anyone who watches this show and punches the air everytime a paedophile gets captured is a fucking idiot - and the show itself is pretty much as deplorable as the people it sets out to counter.
Truly depressing stuff.