Murder in the First and the dead girls dilemma
We've seen a lot of dead women on television, and Murder in the First is guilty of perpetrating this upsetting trope.
The frustrating thing about watching a police procedural isn't just that we've all seen so many versions before. There are tropes that cross from every genre without getting old and stale, themes that we'll happily watch play out on any show, and if they're well done, it'll feel like the first time an audience has seen it. There's one trope, however, that we're ready to give up on forever, and it's one that Murder in the First is especially guilty of indulging in.
The dead, naked blond girl.
When Murder in the First began, the pilot was capped off with the discovery of the dead body of Cindy Strauss, the pretty young flight attendant who had the misfortune to spill wine on Erich (Tom Felton) on a particularly bad day. She was found at the bottom of a staircase in her apartment, naked, with her neck broken. Another blond girl displayed in a sexually provocative pose, the kind of scene we've become desensitized to after years of CSI and Law & Order.
But it's the kind of thing we shouldn't be desensitized to. It's the kind of thing that shouldn't occur in such large numbers across the prime time landscape. Additionally, it's as though it isn't enough that Cindy's dead. As the weeks have gone on, more information about her has unfolded, none of it flattering. She was killed in a particularly violent way, and to make it even more demeaning, the evidence suggests that moments before her death, she'd been fellating the man who murdered her. She was sexually promiscuous and two months pregnant with at least four possible contenders for who the father could have been before DNA evidence seemed to point to Erich. Aspersions are cast on her character by pilot Bill Wilkerson (Steven Weber), who calls her a liar and a home wrecker and blames Cindy entirely for the fact that he was sexually enchanted with her. The problems in his marriage aren't his fault, of course — it's all because Cindy got too attached to him after he led her on.
Even the medical examiner sneers about how selfish this young girl must have been once he discovered that she'd done the street drug MDMA while pregnant. As though there was no possibility that she may have been drugged without her knowledge, as though she might not have known she was pregnant.
Crueler things have been said about Cindy than have been said about the top candidates for the suspects who may have murdered her, and week after week, it's become harder to stomach. Just another dead blond girl, just another girl who should have known what she was getting herself into when she made choices about her romantic partners. The subtext from Wilkerson, from Erich, from her co-flight attendant Stan: none of them want to come right out and say Cindy deserved what she got, but oh, the implication is undoubtedly there, and it seems that the show is going out of its way to convince us that we shouldn't be sad about the death of this young woman, because after all, she committed the heinous crime of having consensual sex with two of her bosses.
Call us crazy, but we're a little tired of seeing the dead girl on a crime procedural being blamed for the misfortune that befell her.
In fact, we're a little tired of seeing so many dead women on TV in general. It's especially disappointing on a show like Murder in the First that's doing so much right with their lead female detective Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson). For the show to impress us at this point, a great step in the right direction would be demonizing the man who killed Cindy Strauss, instead of trying to make the audience dislike a woman who's no longer in a position to defend herself from these awful accusations.