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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 07:58 AM
Original message
An American Family
In 1973, PBS ran a 12-part series, An American Family. It was ranked by TV Guide as #32 in the top fifty television shows of all time. Recently, HBO featured Cinema Verite, about the making of that classic show. I recommend it to anyone interested in the strange dynamics frequently found in the institution of the American family.

TruTV is currently featuring an ugly version of the American family, with the start of the Casey Anthony murder trial in Florida. In June of 2008, her 2-year old daughter, Caylee, disappeared. Casey would not report her daughter missing; in July, her mother would be the one to call 911. Casey told investigators the story that she had told her parents that a babysitter had the toddler but the babysitter did not exist. Seven months later, the child's remains were found approximately a quarter of a mile away from the Anthony home, in a wooded area where Casey played as a child.

On one hand, trials such as this one are often sensationalized, and television programs such as Nancy Grace illustrate how a tragic event becomes entertainment for the masses. Pre-trial coverage is frequently an obscene display of beating a dead horse. It is, of course, more closely related to the emotional disturbances caused by the coverage of the OJ Simpson trial, than to the show about the Louds on PBS.

On the other hand, actual coverage of the inner workings of the court system offers the opportunity for public education. The majority of the trials on TruTV not only lack the annoying theater of the Simpson episodes, but include impressive insight on how judges and attorneys work, as well as fascinating testimony from a variety of expert witnesses.

I find the court system interesting. I've probably had more than the average amount of experience with it. As an angry teen, I rarely enjoyed time spent in court, but over the decades, I've come to enjoy the setting. I've participated not as a defendant! in a significant number of criminal and civil cases. In fact, I even attend some local cases that I have no role in; last night, for example, I brought our foreign exchange student daughter to Town Court, for one of her high school classes. Before we left, the Judge had come over and talked with us for a good half-hour (and will be voting for me in next week's school board election).

My career in social work resulted in my being called to court more times than I can remember as I write this. My other career as a social activist also involved a series of conflicts fought in the context of the court room. I have a respect for the court system that I believe is greater than that of some of the attorneys, and a few of the judges, that I've encountered over the decades.

I am also interested in that building-block of society known as the family system, which is often involved at some level in most of the court cases I am familiar with. On previous essays on this site, I've spoken of families in terms that I learned, comparing them to a mobile that hangs over an infant's crib.

In the case of the Louds family, the filming of the documentary series brought some hidden dysfunctions to the surface. In ways, some individual family were able to separate from the system, find their own balance in life, and then reunite with the system in a healthier manner. In the case of the Anthony family, the dysfunction brewing beneath the public face they put on resulted in the death of a two year old child; it appears unlikely that anyone, with the possible exception of Casey's brother, will experience anything approaching a stable life as this case moves forward.

It would be easy for the public to either ignore the case, or to watch it for purely entertainment purposes. Yet, that would be a shame. For it involves some of the more intense social pathologies of far too many American families: physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; and the ability to feign normalcy to a degree that resulted in the family unit's flying below the radar of a society until the point when a two year old had been dead for a full month. Far better if people viewed it as an educational opportunity, with the understanding that the dynamics of the Anthony family have taken root in far too many American families, behind closed doors.
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mmonk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 08:03 AM
Response to Original message
1. Maybe it can bring forth recognition and be an educational experience.
A lot depends on presentation. I haven't watched TruTV very often. Maybe I should. Thanks.
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 09:04 AM
Response to Reply #1
5. Jury selection
this week. It tends to be slower than the parts of the case. But it is interesting -- some people want to be on the jury, and their answers to the attorneys' questions should disqualify them.

Judge Perry is strict. I believe that as a prosecutor, he went for the death penalty in a case of a mother who was accused of murdering her child.
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Bluenorthwest Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 08:45 AM
Response to Original message
2. Just for sake of clarity
I just want to clearly say that the Loud family were not and are not criminals of any kind, An American Family is not about crime, nor about murder. The Louds are actual people, all but Lance still living and still a family. Lance Loud, on An American Family, became the first person to come out on TV, to the nation, America's first 'everyday gay'. After the film and until his untimely death Lance created music and worked as a journalist for Interview Magazine.
The Anthony family and the Louds are nothing alike. It should not be suggested that the Louds were on TV for reasons similar to the other family.
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 09:00 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Yikes!
I don't think anyone else would think that.
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JonLP24 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 09:03 AM
Response to Original message
4. I was a TruTV addict when I had cable
Watched a few trials. I gotta say I find Jami Floyd a billion times better than Nancy Grace. Love her insight.
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 09:06 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. I agree.
Ms. Grace is no longer with this network, as a result of her personality. I think that is a good thing.
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JonLP24 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 05:05 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. One thing I couldn't stand about Nancy Grace
is how she would have guests on her show and whenever she asked one of them a question and she didn't like their answer she would shout them down, (I think) cut their mic and immediately starts talking about the topic to a guest she agrees with. I mean why ask a question if you aren't going to like the answer? Someone once referred to her as the "Bill O'Reilly of legal analysis". That tactic right there reminds me exactly of Bill O'Reilly.

Is Ashleigh Banfield still on TruTV? I like her even though she never had much to offer as far as legal analysis go, she never was a lawyer, I think she co-hosted with a former prosecutor.
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Philippine expat Donating Member (412 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 11:46 AM
Response to Original message
7. And it deserves nothing more
then a 30 second sound bite on the local news
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 03:46 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. You may be right
about "the news," but it is entirely appropriate for TruTV's courtroom coverage.
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Me. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 03:07 PM
Response to Original message
8. K
+ R
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coeur_de_lion Donating Member (935 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 05:19 PM
Response to Reply #8
13. Hi Me!
How are ya?
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CBGLuthier Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 05:10 PM
Response to Original message
11. Voyeurs. Don't kid yourselves
If you watch this stuff you are a voyeur.
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 05:24 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. oh deer!
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coeur_de_lion Donating Member (935 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 05:18 PM
Response to Original message
12. Hi there H!
This happened not too far from where I live. It's awful. I hope they throw the book at her.

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