Saturday, November 15, 2008

Justice Defied

Thanks to my cable subscription, I got to watch the film Citizen Verdict on Showtime. The basic plot concerns a producer of reality television programs (played by Jerry Springer, who thus revealed that his skills at putting on an act are more technique than intuition) who launches a program in which the entire audience serves as the jury for a trial they watch being broadcast. The whole production is made out of little more than cardboard; but, in spite of its simplistic construction, it offers several good object lessons into the nature of "due process of law" and why it is so important to the way in which our judicial system actually works. I was thinking about this film when reviewing that Charles Rosen quote about Oscar Wilde, which I cited on Thursday. Rosen's phrase, "absurdly bad taste," is absolutely apposite to the way in which director Philippe Martinez and his writers, Tony Clark and Kristina Hamilton-Grobler, have chosen to tell this story of the perversion of our judicial foundations; but, because that noun "perversion" is also so apposite, it is that very bad taste that serves, again in Rosen's words, to "embarrass and disturb while commanding our attention." It is most apparent when the citizen-filed guilty verdict leads to a death sentence, whose execution is also broadcast (pay-per-view). The execution scene was shot in the spirit that there are no limits to vulgarity; but, as such, it can claim legitimate decent from Wilde's original conception of Salomé. Whether all this is sufficient to seize the attention of those "wisdom of crowds" ideologues and give it the violent shaking it deserves remains to be seen; but, by virtue of its artistic license (take as many meanings as you wish), Citizen Verdict stands as an excellent, if unpleasant, example of how "poetic wisdom" can engender reflection on our own humanity.

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