It’s not even an American fictional character, but I can’t help myself. In the British procedural “The Bay,” now on BritBox, the first season tells the ugly story of a police detective investigating the death of a teenage twin and the disappearance of his sister. Like so many TV shows today here and ‘across the pond,’ everybody portrayed is corrupt or otherwise deplorable, even the show’s protagonist. She is a single mother who is so obsessed with her career that her neglected children are falling into crime and ethics rot. The opening scene shows her having drunken sex in an alley outside a pub, being slammed into the wall by a scruffy local. Later she discovers that her spontaneous sex partner of the moment is the brutish married father of the missing twins, and a prime suspect in his disappearance.
Does she immediately recuse herself from the case, since her liaison took place the night of their disappearance and during the crucial hour when he claims he was with his “mates” and couldn’t have been involved in his children’s fate? No, she just counts on the fact that he’ll never tell, erases the CCTV tape that shows her in the bar, and proves that he wasn’t involved, at least in that crime. (Later she arrests him for another.)
The detective isn’t even the fictional character I’m furious with. That distinction goes to the twins’ mother, who flies into fury or hysteria at every development. Like the key figures in all procedurals, she withholds crucial information “she didn’t think was important,” constantly accuses the police of not doing enough because her kids haven’t been found ( post hoc ergo propter hoc, or consequentialism) and demands that they promise her future results beyond their control: “Promise me that you’ll find them!” Yet even these exhibitions didn’t make me want to strangle her.
No, it was when, while bemoaning to the detective the family’s dire financial condition, she was told that there was an option to salve the family’s troubles. Apparently in Great Britain one can apply for a financial grant when one’s child has died in a violent crime. “How much?” the grieving mother asks, for her son’s body has been found, and he was murdered. “Up to eleven thousand pounds,” she is told. And she rises out of her chair, shaking with fury, and screams, “IS THAT ALL MY SON’S LIFE IS WORTH? ELEVEN THOUSAND POUNDS?”
I wish the detective had decked her. No, you stupid, stupid woman. That’s a supplemental hand-out, pure charity, to help families during a crisis, not payment for goods received. Later in the discussion, she says taht she wouldn’t accept the money, because it would devalue her son.
A reaction like that shows someone who has reached adulthood completely devoid of critical thinking skills. No wonder her children ran away; no wonder her first husband (and the biological father of the twins) left; no wonder she’s married now to an unfaithful, lying drunk and is pregnant again, despite having four children already and being unable to account for her two oldest. What upset me–after all, she’s not even close to the worst human being I’ve seen on TV even this week—is that I realized how many members of the public I live among are no more capable of separating emotion from reason than this fool. They can’t tell right from wrong; they can’t solve rudimentary problems. They graduated from school, perhaps even college, without being trained in critical thought. No matter who they voted for in the election, their reasoning was probably based on ignorance, emotion, infantile analysis and self-interest.
In addition, a policy like the one describes, where the government pays you for a random misfortune, encourages warped reasoning. So many people think that every problem they encounter must be solved by the government, and paid for by their neighbors. This law, if it really is one, would seem to be an incentive for criminal behavior. Need to pay some gambling debts? Just have your kid knocked off, and the check will be in the mail.
I suppose I’m not really angry at a writer’s creation, but the flesh and blood models that spawned it: millions and millions of real people who ensure that life is much more difficult and unpleasant for the minority that is paying attention.