Aug 8, 2021

3 min read

Post 7: Cold Case: The Copaganda I Consume

I like to think of myself as someone who consumes media with a critical eye. I see the ways in which the media we are exposed to reflect the American empire’s domestic and foreign interests and try to be as critical of these efforts as possible. Cop shows are one of the most egregious examples of American propaganda currently being displayed across our television screens. There is at least three cop shows running per network per day of the week. And the content of the shows themselves shows how desperately showrunners are trying to sway our thoughts in favor of American police. These shows either completely excuse the dangerous practices of the police they depict or paint a false picture of saviors and heroes that does not reflect our reality. This propaganda, commonly called copaganda, is quite dangerous as it functions as a way to garner and maintain public support for police. This is an effort I am very aware of. But there is one show whose propagandized messages I turned a complete blind eye to. That show is Cold Case.

Cold Case ran for 7 seasons from 2003 to 2010. It’s a show based around a group of Philadelphia homicide detectives who investigate cold cases, or cases that had never been solved. It was glorious. I grew up on this show. I watched reruns of the older episodes and new ones with my mom when I was younger. That was always our thing together, television. Cold Case was so special compared to the other crime shows we watched together. It made me feel so much more than any other show had at the time. In a way, it broke the mold that other shows had created and stuck to. It was less about what followed the death, and more about what preceded it, which was unique. It centered the victims. The narrative of the past relied on the stories told by suspects and witnesses, and it weaves such a spectacular mystery. You always meet the murderer at some point in the episode before they are finally revealed at the end, so you spend your time piecing the story together with the characters. I even found myself trying to guess who did it and why. It’s a very formulaic show, which I find very comforting.

This show also portrays both sides of the crime in an interesting way. The victims ranged from perfect angels to troubled individuals, and I felt for every single one. As I rewatched the first 3 seasons in the summer of 2020, I found myself crying at nearly every single episode (I have the snapchats I sent to friends to prove it). No matter what the victim had done in the years or days preceding their deaths, the show always emphasized their future potential. The saddest part was how they died before their potential could be fully realized, or before they could right a wrong. So many other shows focus on the murderer, and never on the victim. Cold Case always made sure to show how the victim was the most important person in the story.

The murders featured in Cold Case were almost always crimes of passion committed against loved ones or innocents. They were hardly ever premeditated crimes, though there were exceptions. These murderers were never as evil as those portrayed in other shows, but they were particularly insidious because of the way they moved on and pretended to grieve the people they’d hurt.

The reason Cold Case is the only copaganda show I’ll let slide without critique is because I feel like the stories are deeper than the police. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but I feel like this show is nothing like other cop shows. It doesn’t focus heavily on the drama of the detectives, the main point is always to solve the murder. It’s also deeply unrealistic as far as a group of detectives solely focusing on cold jobs, and actually caring about solving them goes. This is so far outside the realm of possibility, I can’t even trick my mind into believing it’s real.

Perhaps this is what the goal of copaganda is, and perhaps I’ve foolishly bought into it. But I really do love this show.