The NYPost asked me yesterday to cover the controversy over an episode of NBC’s TV show, “Medium,” in which a character playing an Arizona state senator/POW turns out be a…murdering cannibal. Here’s the column online. Also printing here with hyperlinks. Kristin Fyfe at MRC/Newsbusters has more analysis and clips from the show. Any “Medium” fans out there who want to chime in? Leave comments or e-mail.
Lib-TV Cannibal Lecture
Special to the NYPost
What is it with Hollyweird? Is there such a galactic vacuum of talent and creativity in the entertainment world that prime-time TV can’t be produced without pilfering the biography of the GOP presidential contender for empty anti-Republican, anti-military titillation?
I’m talking about the latest episode of the NBC show “Medium.”
On Monday, the “psychic crime drama” set in Phoenix featured a plot involving a senior Arizona state senator and former prisoner of war who turns out to be a murderous cannibal.
The producers should have just gone ahead and flashed “FEAR John McCain” subliminally every 10 seconds throughout the show. Or Photoshopped McCain’s head onto Hannibal Lecter for promos.
Those would have been far more subtle.
The McCain-esque character, a politician named Jed Garrity, as played by actor Gregory Itzin, is suspected of murder by the main character, medium Allison Du Bois. Her psychic flashbacks lead her to discover that “Garrity” enlisted his fellow POWs at a North Vietnamese camp in a morbid scheme to kill a dying American soldier for food and prevent the rest of them from starving to death. The POWs drew straws to pick who would commit the dastardly deed. Garrity had the bad luck.
Decades later, a survivor threatens to spill the beans on what they had done, and Garrity engineers a new plot to kill the whistle blower. The conspirators chop his body into pieces and bury them. Another of the veterans cracks, however, and con fesses to the police. But Garrity escapes accountability because the confessor claims he acted alone.
Kristen Fyfe of the Culture and Media Institute points out the final slur: Garrity justifies the second murder by arguing that he and the other POW killers, unlike the victim, “had all made something of their lives and, by so doing, honored the ‘legacy’ of the man they ate while prisoners of war. The unwritten and unspoken message is clear: The ex-POW Arizona senator is sleazy and opportunistic.”
The episode’s title was “Aftertaste.” And it should leave a bad one in the mouths of viewers of all political stripes.
What was the point of melding McCain’s biographical details into the show? The plot, such as it was, would have worked just as well if Garrity had been a banker or mayor.
The likely effect may be less to persuade potential McCain voters to turn against him than to deepen the existing animosity to the military in pop culture.
Soldier-as-victim and soldier-as-monster narratives dominate TV. NBC’s “Law & Order,” “Las Vegas” and “ER” have all featured vets as torturers or tortured souls driven to murder or hallucinations. So have ABC’s “Boston Legal,” CBS’s “Criminal Minds,” “Jericho” and “CSI: Miami.”
On the boob tube and the silver screen, American heroes in uniform are the exception, not the rule. That “Medium” fell into the same, anti-military drumbeat is troubling and puzzling. The show’s executive producer, Kelsey Grammer, is one of Hollywood’s rare Republicans.
A viewer of “Medium” vented on an Internet message board: “The Monday night episode of ‘Medium,’ charmingly titled ‘Aftertaste,’ was clearly a swipe at McCain, whom I do not support, but this sneaking anti-Republican propaganda into what is supposed to be ‘entertainment’ is getting very old and annoying.
“The producers of ‘Medium’ apparently must think we’re all idiots and can be easily manipulated into hating Vietnam veterans who were POWs and thinking that Sen. McCain is an evil, heartless cannibal. I happen to oppose John McCain on his too-liberal political stands, but I respect his military service, and find this attempt by some Hollywood twerps . . . to pointedly demean that service with a ridiculous plot portraying Vietnam War POWs as cannibals, to be a very good reason to cease bothering to tune in ‘Medium.’ At this point, TV viewing, in general, is becoming a burden I can easily do without.”
For a permanent palate cleanser, click “Off” on the remote control. In the meantime, contemplate this:
What would happen to an executive producer and a network that broadcast a show with a plot involving, say, a blond, hyper-ambitious female New York senator who murders one of her close political confidants to prevent him from spilling the beans on her shady business dealings – and enlists her staff to hide his body parts in their freezers to evade an FBI probe?
You don’t need to be a psychic to anticipate the massive political and media backlash that would ensue.
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