TV rarely shocks me, as I am a watcher of even the worst it has to offer (sometimes, especially the worst it has to offer: hello America’s Next Top Model); but occasionally, I do manage to shock my hard-hearted self with my more abject TV-watching choices. Case in point: Nancy Grace.
I should not be watching Nancy Grace. No one should be watching Nancy Grace. And yet here some of us are, watching Nancy Grace. Nancy Grace, the former prosecutor and current “victims’ rights” advocate on her CNN Headline News show Nancy Grace (offensively on every night), is, I’m sorry to say, the person I turn to when a shocking crime goes down and I need to know things about it. And she covers (and covers and covers) only the most shocking crimes — rape, murder, domestic violence, and every unspeakable crime that happens to a child or a pregnant woman. Nancy Grace. She publicizes rumors and innuendo. She exploits the crime victims she seeks to help. She apoplectically wants justice. She accuses people of murder and molestation on television. She reveals disturbing crime scene details with disbelief and vitriol. She hates evil-doers and sanctifies innocents. She allows people, dead or alive, no ownership over their public images. She is Jon Benet Ramsey, the Duke Lacrosse Rape Scandal, Lacey Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and Natalee Holloway. She is righteous and demented, and sometimes, I watch her show and listen to the things she has to say.
Disclaimer: I am uneasy that readers will take this to mean that I am entertained by other people’s pain and loss. I’m not. I’m really not. Like most people, I don’t want the kind of suffering Nancy Grace “covers” to exist. I’d like to believe that I am riveted by these big news stories (plane crash in the Hudson River, Caylee Anthony case) not only out of a sense of morbid curiosity (I won’t deny there’s that, and that’s not abnormal. You have a little bit of it too!), but also out of a sense empathy for my fellow man. Now, watching Nancy Grace isn’t the noblest example of this empathy, I know, but I do believe, in a strange way, that she cares. Under all her melodramatic, eyeball-popping, blame-assigning posturing, she really does want legal and public vindication for crime victims and their families. (She frequently mentions the fact that the murder of her fiancé when she was 19 years-old convinced to her study law.) And she really does hope this vindication will alleviate their suffering. She just goes about caring in some shockingly horrible ways.
The Caylee Anthony case is Nancy Grace’s current cause, and it has all the stereotypical Nancy Grace elements — missing toddler, mother didn’t report her missing for a month, stories don’t add up — and Nancy has led many of her shows with the case since last July. I won’t go into all the details, since I’d feel kind of gross doing it, and you’ve probably already heard a little bit about it, but you can watch part of one of Nancy Grace’s many Caylee Anthony specials here if you’d like to see some standard Nancy Grace moves and hear some dramatic music. It’s a horrible case, and with the discovery of the toddler’s body in December, the case has gotten stranger and more horrible. I have learned much about it on Nancy Grace.
Obviously, Nancy Grace is very easy to hate. YouTube has tons of videos of her getting smacked down by guests or acting especially crazy. And she really does act and look, um, crazy: insanely coiffed blonde hair, stage make-up worthy of a production of Antigone, and that melodramatic, grating voice. And rightfully so, among all the other morally questionable things to hate her for, many people have pointed out that Nancy Grace and Nancy Grace-type shows (and the news media in general) are quick to pick up on and cover shocking crimes that happen to white people, providing no coverage of similar crimes committed against people of color. Ugh. Like I said, no one should be watching Nancy Grace.
I only do it very rarely, I promise you. And I shock myself when I do it, and I usually turn the channel after five minutes … but sometimes, yes, I watch Nancy Grace. One small silver lining: some days, I can judge the balance between good and evil in the universe based on what’s on Nancy Grace. A good day is when she’s forced to cover a car chase that ends uneventfully in Los Angeles. She’s on every night. It’s good that she doesn’t always have something to talk about.
Please don’t hold any of this against me.