On CSI

Creating Criminal Masterminds

By Kristine Kathryn Rusch

“Everyone learns from science. It all depends on how you use the knowledge.”

–Gil Grissom, “I Like to Watch” (6-17)

The episode “I Like to watch,” one of the best in CSI’s Stellar 2005—2006 season, played with the entire idea of voyeurism. Cameras watched ev-erything–obviously breaking the fourth wall. Reporters, following the team, asked the questions we sometimes ask, and at the same time, we saw the harried Crime Scene Investigators, trying to do their job in the media spotlight.

In CSI, however, the investigators do not fail.

CSI, remember, is fiction.

Excellent fiction. It grapples with societal problems from pornography to child abuse, but it also gives us a voyeur’s-eye view of everything from a bullet invading a human skull to ways people in animal costumes have group sex. CSI is not about solving society’s ills. It doesn’t have an agenda like Boston Legal or even Law and Order does.

In many ways, CSI is a science fiction program. It focuses on the sci-ence–the oh-isn’t-this-cool side of science. We can find a sliver of car paint, and track it to the year and model of a particular vehicle; we can use computers to see how many such vehicles exist in the Las Vegas area; and then we can inspect the vehicles that meet our criteria, finding the exact match.

CSI rarely worries about legalities–no one waits for a warrant, hardly any suspect asks for a lawyer before confessing all, and the CSIs themselves know which case they’re working on and who might be guilty.  …

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