I've currently been working my way (via Netflix) through the Canadian TV series Flashpoint, a police drama telling the story of Greg Parker and the SRU (Strategic Response Unit), a SWAT-like team of highly trained officers proficient in everything from sniping to forced entry to computer hacking.
There are enough guns and car chases and evil bad guys and complicated good guys to make any lover of cop dramas happy (and to make the anabaptist in me just a little nervous), but there's one thing that sets this show apart - and is probably the reason I've come to enjoy it.
Unlike most police dramas (be they TV or bigsceen), in Flashpoint, violence is used only as a last resort. Flashpoint focuses on the psychological aspects of criminal behavior, and thus paints a more nuanced view of the Bad Guys. Rather than just being one-dimensional super-evil people, most of the criminals in this show have other issues that lead to their behavior. Parents trying to save sick children, young men with psychological issues, broken people simply trying to make sense of a painful world - their stories are fleshed out in ways you rarely see in American police dramas. And because of that, the SRU crew usually find ways to get through to said perpetrators, talking them down peacefully rather than using superior firepower to win the day.
In other words, unlike most police/military shows wherein the day is won by the good guys because the good guys have better and bigger weapons, which they inevitably use to blow away the bad guys, in Flashpoint the SRU crew find ways to understand and reach out to the bad guys, using things like empathy and understanding to diffuse the situation and bring peace at the end of the day.
Not every time, mind you. Like with real life, sometimes the bad guys just won't go down nicely, and lethal force is required.
And so you're left with the message that:
a) most "bad guys" are real people with real problems who are broken in their own ways, and are behaving in ways that, while wrong, do at least make some sense. And are therefore deserving of a little bit of empathy and understanding.
b) there are ways to solve violent situations without resorting to more violence. Often, a little empathy, understanding, and time to listen and really hear is all people really need.
So I'm left to wonder whether this is all because the show truly is trying to paint a different picture than most dramas, or is it just because Canadians are generally nicer than the rest of the world anyway?
Also, the more I watch, the more I think I want to visit Toronto sometime.