Cheers Again To 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 28, 2003
Writers of the CBS-TV drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" often deal with characters that have disabilities in a respectful manner and hit important disability issues head on.
Thursday night's episode was no different.
One story line included a crime victim with Down syndrome.
The young man had died from puncture wounds to his back while working as a ranch hand at a rodeo ranch. His badly decomposed body was discovered 17 months after the incident, hidden in a large tool chest in the desert. (I won't give away any more of the story for those who wish to see it for the first time in re-runs.)
I would not be surprised to learn that CSI has had more characters with disabilities than any other. Episodes I have watched featured characters with mental illness, autism, mental retardation and other disabilities. A story line last year involved the suffocation death of a young girl, the circumstances of which were eerily similar to the real "rebirthing" death of Candice Newmaker.
It's no secret that the head of the CSI crew, Gil Grissom, is losing his hearing, and that he had deaf family members. In one recent episode, he spent what seemed to me a long time signing with a deaf character. No voice. No captions. No way for the hearing audience to know what they were talking about, unless they knew sign language. (A poll on the CSI Web site asks, "How long can Grissom keep his disability a secret?")
Also, the cast member that plays coroner Al Robbins, a character whose legs have been amputated, is an actor whose legs have been amputated. He usually uses crutches, but has appeared in a wheelchair at least a time or two. In Thursday's episode he cursed while pulling ant-proof clothing over his prosthetic feet.
The crime victim with Down syndrome was not demeaned by the writers or the recurring cast members. He was not treated like "a child in an adult body". He was not praised highly for "being courageous".
As the murder suspect is being arrested, he refers to the victim as a "retard". Grissom puts him in his place.
"The word 'retard' means 'to hold back, to slow or delay'," Grissom grins. "I think your life has just become 'retarded'."
"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS-TV)