Friday, October 13, 2006

Dear Rob Thomas:

I love the hell out of Veronica Mars. It's usually a witty, provocative, complex, and a thoroughly satisfying entertainment, even taking the occasionally misstep into account. However, your use of the Stanford Prison Experiment for this week's episode was poorly conceived and ultimately disrespectful to a lesson that should be more important to Americans now than at any point in the last 230-odd years.

Don't get me wrong. I like the idea of adapting the SPE to a tv show, preferably one dark enough to carry the lesson forward. VM certainly has that darkness, but here, as with your ill-conceived episode from last season that inverted the point of 12 Angry Men by switching the protagonist from a defender to a prosecutor (sheesh), you have undercut the point that I believe you were trying to make. In the wake of Abu Ghraib and the current Administration's cowardly, casual gutting of the Geneva Conventions, people need to remember exactly how easy it is to blur the line between regular joe and heartless torturer or faceless torturee.

True, you had your professor, played by the man who voices Homer Simpson, state this in no uncertain terms. But then you removed the professor from the experiment, whereas in the real SPE, the professor lost himself in his role. You had the only psycho "guard" be a guy who started an ass and then finished one. You had the only prisoner who lost control of himself be weak from the start and weak at the finish (although your casting here was also superb, so make Samm Levine a regular, for the sake of all that's good and holy). You also allowed the prisoners to retain their names and to undertake some fairly minor hardships, given the horrors of the original SPE, let alone the horrific dehumanizing and inhumane methods currently employed in officially sanctioned U.S. torture centers (excuse, I'm throwing up in my mouth a little right now) around the world. What's even more unforgiveable is that you justified allowing your "guards" to torture your "prisoners" by asserting that a bomb would go off in 48 hours. Most - if not all - of the people being held and tortured in the name of this misguided War on Terror (I always marvel at the stupidity of that name) do not have any such knowledge. Even if they did, they are being held and tortured for years, not days, long past when any knowledge they may have once had would have been useful.

Anyway, I think you did not mean to suggest that the darkest corners of humanity are like some college creep being mean to others. I think you meant the inverse: that almost anyone could become the epitome of evil if permitted or encouraged by an institution to do so. But your execution was lazy, sir, and this issue is far too serious to be treated so casually. Please try harder in the future. I have faith in you and in the other creators of this show.

In the meantime, I assume from the show's hilarious references to Battlestar Galactica that you are a fan. Please consider gravity with which that show is treating the subject of torture. Again: don't take lightly that which dehumanizes us all.

Your faithful servant,
etc. etc.

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Cary, NC, United States
reachable at firstname lastname (all run together) at gmail dot com

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