I’ve been excited for FX’s The Bridge, an adaptation of a joint Danish-Swedish television production about detectives from each country investigating the death of a murder victim found on a bridge that marks the border between their two nations. FX made a smart move in transferring the countries in question to Mexico and the United States, and in casting Demian Bichir, nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as an undocumented immigrant in A Better Life, to play the Mexican detective and Diane Kruger to play his American counterpart who, in keeping with the original interpretation of the character, is somewhere on the Autism spectrum:
I can understand why those of you who are feeling overdosed on violence against women as a means of generating drama might be wary of The Bridge. But I’m willing to give it a chance precisely because it’s addressing a real-world epidemic of violence, the murders of at least 370 women in Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, since the spate of killings seems to have begun in 1993. The crimes are ongoing, and the investigations of individual murders that have resulted in prosecutions and convictions have raised serious questions about police misconduct. And it’s possible that there are multiple perpetrators who are killing women who come to work in the clothing industry that’s grown rapidly in the wake of the North American Free Trade agreement, or that some of the homicides are related to drug trafficking.
It’s one thing to take on real crimes that have taken place and are continuing to take place, especially those that have had their moment in the public eye and then receded from view, and particularly ones that raise valuable questions about flaws in the criminal justice system. It’s another to bring new visions of atrocity into the world, which is one of the reasons I find the proliferation of increasingly baroque serial killer shows such a turn-off. I’m all for confronting the world we actually live in, or for images and storylines that remind us of realities we’ve tried to put solidly in the past. But I’m losing my desire to imagine what it could be like if there were many more of the most violent sorts of people living in it, for the aesthetic pleasure of consuming that violence. I don’t know that The Bridge will be immune from television’s fascination with the gruesome details of the crimes its main characters are investigating. But my hope is that the focus will be less on a luxurious exploration of the specific acts of violence done to women in Ciudad Juárez and more on the social conditions that make them vulnerable, and the structural problems that make it harder to bring their killers to justice. In other words, I hope that The Bridge and its very different detectives will be a vision of the way the world could be better, rather than a celebration of the means by which it could be much worse.