A recent CSI Miami episode focussed on cyber-stalking. Briefly, a school swimming star (Candace Walker) is the subject of a website devoted to stalking and photographing her – consequently, she is being followed by dozens of amateur paparazzi – and at the beginning of the episode, her boyfriend is shot and killed with an arrow. A number of things stood out, and taken together, they left me with a very sour taste.
Candace Walker: For most of the episode, she’s portrayed in a Sacred Victim kind of way. At the same time, though, she’s participating in an official photo-shoot promoting something or other. On its own, that might strike me as a girl determined not to let her life be cancelled by her stalkers – or as a demonstration of difference between consent and violation. Taken with the rest, it comes across as her toggling between Madonna and Whore.
Mother vs Father: Candace’s mother is the one organizing the photo-shoot. She doesn’t see any danger in the website and horde of stalkers, just seeing it all as a way to raise Candace’s profile and satisfy her own vicarious ambitions. At one point in the episode, the father stages a kidnapping attempt on Candace, in order to convince her and her mother that she is in danger. Assault as protection, yeah; the scene where he confesses to Horatio is clearly meant to stack our sympathy in his favour.
Mother vs Stalker: We’re given a specific photographer (male) who’s arrested in a throwaway scene, where he’s presented more as an idiot than a criminal, seduced into his actions by the buzz of the site. Meanwhile, Candace’s mother turns out to be the one who started the website – inviting people to stalk her daughter, in order to make the daughter more bankable.
Rival vs Coach: Candace has a swim coach. She also has a rival, in the form of another member of the team, who envies both her publicity and her boyfriend. The coach and the rival are sleeping together. Rival uses coach to get the keys to the equipment room, where she gets a bow and tries to kill Candace, shooting the boyfriend by mistake. The episode at least mentions a stat rape charge for the coach – but the last we see of him is walking past the rival, after their arrests, and being snubbed by her as she preens for the cameras, him looking hurt (and thus presenting her as the powerful party in the relationship; the whole men seduced by underage girls thing).
Most of these – apart from the seduction by underage girl part – wouldn’t strike me as anything but “this character is messed up.” But taken together they include Madonna/Whore (with Candace being pushed into the Whore role by her mother), stalking-as-compliment (for Whore rival and Pimp mother, and by extension stalking as an acceptable fate for bad girls/women), force-as-protection (to keep the Madonna from becoming a Whore), the crimes of women as active and the crimes of men as forced on them by women’s seductions (coach) or endangerment (father). Details matter – details add up into context – writers of forensic procedurals ought to know that.