Thursday, December 23, 2010 Guest Post - To Catch a Predator: Making Molesters Funny.

[Editor's Note: I'll admit, I like watching NBC's To Catch a Predator for all the wrong reasons. The homie Slimm Jackon of one my my favorite blogs 3 Ways To Take It, wonders if we're all missing the point. Show our guest some love, you-know-where.]

Have you ever watched NBC's To Catch a Predator? If not, you’re missing out. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s a show where child molesters are lured from chat rooms to a house full of cameras and the witty genius known as Chris Hansen. Over the last few months, it’s become one of the most popular shows amongst Black folks on Twitter and other social media platforms. It’s quite humorous actually. You see child molesters walk in, get naked, and put whipped cream around their genitals. You see guys walk in with beer and other influencing substances expecting to meet underage teens and end up seeing Chris Hansen emerge from a hallway, bathroom, closet, and other semi-predictable locations followed by a witty line that usually catches the molester off-guard and sometimes while eating cookies.

(Check Chris chilling on a beach chair at like 4:05 and dude trying to offer pizza to get away from his inevitable fate.)

When I watch TCAP, I think of shows like Cheaters. It’s amusing to listen to someone that is clearly in the wrong try to explain their actions. It’s even more amusing to see the potential offender walk out, only to be arrested as soon as they leave the house by an officer covered in leaves like Swamp Thing or an extra aggressive team from the local police force. I’ve watched no less than 6 episodes and I find myself falling over in laughter each time Chris catches someone and proceeds to grill them with an assortment of witty punchlines and one liners like “You can keep the towel” and “You’re moving pretty quickly there.” TCAP makes me feel better about life despite the fact that what’s going on is horrendous, immoral, and just plain wrong.

Most of the offenders on the show are white and/or something other than Black. I’ve come to realize that’s what makes the show so funny to many of us. One of the reasons that Black folks enjoy the show so much is that it’s one of the few criminal shows out there that doesn’t depict us at the criminals. If you’ve watched The First 48, you know what I’m talking about. TCAP allows us to let our proverbial hair down and poke fun at people other than ourselves. Chris Hansen’s indirect humor doesn’t help either. And as I’ve continued to watch, I can’t help but notice the message that’s getting lost. The show is about child molesters. These are the people that prey upon our children and younger siblings. These are the people that are viewed as some of the most vile and disgusting individuals in society. Yet and still, we continue to laugh because it isn’t about us—at least that’s what we think.

The purpose of the show is supposed to be to deter sexual predators from reaching out to children via the internet. But as episodes continue to air and predators admit to having seen the show or recognizing Chris upon entering the set-up house, it’s becoming more obvious that the show isn’t achieving its goal. It’s a great laugh to see a molester have to nervously use his inhaler or find his clothes as cameras circle him, but what about the real issues on the table? I say issues because there is something else that isn’t really considered.

What about the families of the individuals caught on camera trying to touch and have sex with kids? Many of these men have wives and families. I can’t imagine getting a call from my mother, Dateline NBC, or the local police station telling me that a family member or someone I knew was caught in the process of committing one of the most egregious acts in society today. What about these families? What about the wife that didn’t know she married a monster? What about the son or daughter that has to walk into elementary school, high school, or college knowing that thousands and maybe millions saw their father, uncle, or grandfather get caught trying to quell an uncontrollable urge?

I don’t say this to be a downer. I say this because as we’re letting our hair down, we’re also letting our guards down to something that very well could be going on in our communities. Just something to think about. Will I continue to watch and laugh? Yes. Will I send out tweets and Facebook messages making fun of the criminals? Yes. But in the process of all of this, I’ll try my best to take away the message that seems to be failing for the masses. Child molestation isn’t a white thing. It’s an unfortunate human thing that doesn’t discriminate. Try to keep that in mind. You never know when the man pulling up to the set-up house could be the one pulling up to your own.

Question: What do you think of the To Catch a Predator show? Should we just be having fun with it or taking it more serious? Do you think it’s deterring sick individuals like the ones it features? Is it right to put the families of the molesters on blast indirectly? Striking a balance between humor and protecting the kids?

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