Corpse, spectacle, illusion: mainstreaming extreme images in CSI

Basil Glynn, Jeongmee Kim

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper explores the representation of medical examiners in CSI. The skills of the CSIs—as played out in relation to their explorations of the corpse—are very specifically in service to the police and the judicial system, and thus the body in CSI recedes from view once it has yielded its secrets, often very early in an episode. When bodies are repeatedly returned to over the course of an episode it tends to be for information rather than pathos. When they are ultimately closed, morgue drawers signify the end of a body’s usefulness in a case more than the end of a life, and we are infrequently shown more than fleeting scenes of the human cost of death to family and friends. CSI is rooted in the worldview of Grissom, as the paterfamilias of the show, who instructs both the viewer and his CSI subordinates how to respond to the corpse: to see it as representing part of a puzzle rather than the end of a life. In “Too Tough to Die”, for example, Grissom explains to a subordinate, who feels compassion for a victim in a coma, that “She’s evidence.” He constantly reminds everybody, including the viewers, to understand bodies as clues, to dehumanize and objectify them, and not to see them as dead versions of our future selves.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Sept 2006
EventTV Fiction Exchange: Local/Regional/National/Global - Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Sept 20068 Sept 2006

Academic conference

Academic conferenceTV Fiction Exchange
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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