Preoccupied with the Bad Guys

I have been watching the old TV show “Columbo” starring Peter Falk. I have to admit I love the show, and I don’t really know why.  I just love the way Falk’s character uses his perceived simplicity and stupidity to his advantage. He is really a brilliant and observant man. He can outsmart even the most ingenious criminal while appearing to be bumbling around aimlessly. Maybe I just hope that my bumbling around is really that smart!

The obvious difference between this 1970s show and the current crime dramas is the use of technology. I often find myself thinking “just use the computer!”, only to remind myself that there weren’t any satellite-guided GPS systems around back then. Another more intriguing difference however is the way the show is filmed and directed. The episodes that I have watched have had one thing in common that is different from the more recent shows I’ve watched: The director of the show chooses to focus on the perspective of the murderer or “bad guy” for the majority of the show. Detective Columbo seems to pop in to their lives at various random times, but for the most part the viewer is seeing the whole duration of time through the eyes of the criminal.

This strikes me as a bit strange. In most shows that have been done in the past decade or so, the focus is on the main character of the show (the “good guy”) and his process of solving the crime. The events of the story unfold from the perspective of the main character and not the other way around.

I was asking myself why this is, and I have a theory (although I could be wrong). It is Columbo’s inherent goodness and virtue, characterized by his integrity and commitment to justice, that are the real heart of what the show is about. There is no need to prove this through lots of displays of his goodness, he is just a good cop. Period. Could it be that in decades past, these virtues were much more commonplace and were assumed by the audience? Maybe the craftiness of criminals was more fascinating to the general TV audience in the seventies, and the shows that centered around the body-hiders and bomb-makers were what people wanted to see. Perhaps now integrity is so rare we want to see entire shows centered around someone committed to justice and integrity and thus the shows which star the “good guys” flourish these days.

I know there is not much a rhyme or reason to this, but it’s at least worth considering. One of the best things about knowing God is understanding that He made all things and that there are marks of him everywhere, even in the kindness and goodness of fictitious characters. This is one of the reasons that all humans love good stories. You might ask yourself what you celebrate and admire in the characters you love, and see what you might learn from them.

Oh, uh, just one more thing…

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