Human humiliation as entertainment

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

 — from the theme song of the Fox TV show COPS

How do David Lyle & Howard Owens — the two television executives from Fox who now run the National Geographic Channel — plan to increase the Channel’s ratings?

Evidently, they’re going to take Fox shows that are proven hits, such as the TV series COPS …

… and then add a little flourish that gives it a more cross-cultural feel. Something National Geographic-y. Something like Navajo Cops.

Premiering on Monday night (March 12, 2012), Navajo Cops follows “police action on the reservation, including murder, suicide, rape, domestic violence, drugs, gangs and prostitution.” But as Sam Dolan, the show’s producer and director, points out, “these officers go to work every day to preserve their traditions, their cultures.”  {cue National Geographic theme music }

It’s no surprise that this show angers some people in the Navajo community. Here’s one reaction to the series pilot (which aired last May) from a blogger who calls herself Angry Navajo / Indian Girl:

“The premise of the show is similar to Cops, but filmed on the Navajo reservation. Obviously, the show was littered with your average reprobates, thugs, trouble youths, etc. After watching the show, I couldn’t help but cringe. The Navajo Nation, the largest American Indian tribe in the US, receives little if any national exposure. When we do, it’s usually negative or stereotypical…. So, to my dismay, Navajo Cops was just a reinforcement of negative stereotypes of American Indians: We are drunks. We are vanishing. We are hopeless. We are destitute. …

And this from Octavia:

“This show – along with every Cops-type show I’ve seen – is horrible. (1) Because of the racial stereotypes encouraged, (2) because it teaches that punishment is the way to end problems (as opposed to adequate social services, rehabilitation, etc) and (3) because it teaches viewers that watching other people get caught/hurt/humiliated is entertainment.”  {emphasis added}

  • Kristin Sturdevant

    This type of media is produced by sensationalistic thugs. Making money on the Navajos, like other disenfranchised, impoverished, despairing people is disgusting and IMMORAL.

    • Hi Kristin,
      Obviously, I’m no fan of this type of show. But the Channel would no doubt say that Navajo authorities approved of the production because they hoped it might shed some light on the challenges faced by the Navajo people. But I think the cameras are there to show policemen roughing up & Tasing a drunk guy who was “taken down” by cops who knew that where there are cameras, there must be action. 
      Thanks for your comment & for stopping by….

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