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September 20 - 26, 1999

 
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 Five Detective Categories

Here are five kinds of crime solvers:
Some of the most compelling detective work is done by average guys trying to clear their names. The most common scenario has an innocent man, wrongfully accused of a heinous crime, eluding both the law and actual perpetrators in an effort to right the scales of justice. Typical examples are Dr. Richard Kimble, the majority of Hitchcock protagonists, and O. J. Simpson.
Dowdy frumps don't always sit around coating their stomachs with Milk of Magnesia and playing canasta. Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher enjoyed their golden years by tracking down cold-blooded murderers, occasionally while riding a Schwinn. Then they drank Milk of Magnesia and played canasta.
Americans often learn about other nations from zany foreign detectives. Inspector Clouseau showed that the French aren't always rude, they are occasionally just bumblers. The very English affectations of Sherlock Holmes and his obedient manservant showed the wisdom of the Revolutionary War. And Hercule Poirot showed nations aren't always what they seem, since the name "Hercule" sounded like it belonged to a Greek legend when it was really just a fat Belgian.
Detectives are everywhere, especially in ancillary law enforcement jobs. When not taking on small businesses and the working poor, the IRS is frequently enlisted to thwart crime syndicates. Insurance investigators can fight fraud by randomly denying claims of all kinds, and medical examiners like Quincy and Kay Scarpetta can dig up corpses for murder clues or just for fun. There's a little detective in all of us. As proof, try finding something funny in the last few sentences.
Just because you aren't old enough to vote doesn't mean you can't solve crimes. Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys perfected the sleuthing arts for adolescents. For those looking for subtext, Velma, Fred, Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby were the snoops of choice. It didn't take too much imagination to picture Daphne and Fred making sure the van was a-rockin', Velma peering through a window as a very interested third party, and Shaggy talking about how weird his hand looked. Criminals and ghosts should know better than to screw with those meddling kids.

Emil Gam