Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dog Chapman: Does the Punishment fit the Crime?

"Where Mercy is Shown, Mercy is Given."--Duane "Dog" Chapman

A & E suspended my favorite TV show Dog the Bounty Hunter because of an audiotape of a private conversation where Duane "Dog" Chapman uses the n-word in describing the lady friend of one his sons.

My question is this: does the punishment fit the crime?

I'm no respecter of the n-word. It's a bloody foul, disgusting word to begin with and its good that there is opprobrium whenever someone uses it in public.

The question is though the tape of Duane "Dog" Chapman wasn't a public speech or broadcast but a clandestine tape of a private conversation,

Does the punishment fit the crime?

The suspension of Dog the Bounty Hunter leaves a vacancy for me in my TV watching. Before, nothing on TV interested me (except for The Sopranos). Somehow Dog the Bounty Hunter made for fascinating TV viewing. Here was a modern bounty hunter (backed by an 1872 U.S. Supreme Court ruling) going after fugitives who jumped bail. Most of the time Duane "Dog" Chapman operated out of Hawaii but he and his family work in the continental U.S. as well (mostly in Colorado).

During the past three years we have seen the Chapman family operation (Not only does Duane and his wife Beth work as bounty hunters but also Duane's sons: Leland, Duane Lee, and his daughter Lisa). During those three years the Chapman family has made the reality show Dog the Bounty Hunter one of A & E's flagship series.

One of the show's many fascinating aspects is how it shows the reality of a life of crime. You see the faces of real drug addicts, wife-beaters, petty thieves, hustlers, prostitutes, and drug dealers. You see the effects of crime on the families of the perpetrators who risked their money and property in putting up bail for their loved ones who got arrested. Like Dog the Bounty Hunter says, "there is no pot of gold when you live a life of crime. Just an 8 X 10 foot cage." He ought to know because he himself had done a stint in prison, emerged reformed, and dedicated himself to bounty hunting like the old Western adage: it takes a crook to catch a crook.

There are no nice edges in Duane "Dog" Chapman. He uses mule skinner language often, smokes like a chimney (and has a bad smoker's hack to show for it), and has been forced to endure his share of heartbreaks and tragedies (at least of two of his twelve children have gone to jail and another was killed in a car crash the day he married his wife Beth).

And now his show is suspended because he used the n-word in a private conversation.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

It's deeply ironic (to me at least) that the person who sold the audiotape of Dog Chapman's rant was his son Tucker. My favorite Dog the Bounty Hunter episode of all time is the one titled Dog Meets the Godfather. It involves Chapman having to pick up one of Hawaii's leading criminals: a a Samoan gangster named Lilo. For once Chapman is reluctant to haul in the the gangster because something the gangster did for him in the past. Chapman's son Tucker had become an ice addict (ice is a form of amphetamine that is instantly addictive when ingested) and was arrested and convicted for committing armed robbery. Chapman wanted vengeance on the drug dealer who sold the ice to his son and went looking for him. Before he could find the dope dealer, Chapman ran into Lilo. Lilo, although a hardened criminal himself, counseled Chapman not to seek vengeance on the dealer (and possibly risk going to jail himself). Chapman, telling the story, said that Lilo told him, "let God handle it." And Chapman did. (The drug dealer was later arrested and jailed for thirty years for dope dealing).

Chapman later did arrest Lilo but he did it tactfully and was retain Lilo's friendship.

If such a plot line was used on the usual police shows you see on TV a lot of people would scoff at it (I know I would) but in the case of Dog the Bounty Hunter it's completely true.

What's even more ironic is that his son Tucker was released from prison a year ago and the reason why he was released was because of his father's TV show was such a smash hit. His father's celebrity certainly had to have been a factor in him getting an early parole.

(In another episode, on Tucker's first birthday after his release from jail, Dog took Tucker back to his prison cell to have a heart-to-heart talk with him about not returning to a life of crime. It was a powerful heartfelt moment and a humbling reminder of what crime can do to a person. Both father and son have first-hand knowledge of what crime can do).

And now the show has been suspended because his son Tucker sold the audio tape to the news media.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

As Dog Chapman always like to say 'where mercy is shown, mercy is given."

I'd like to see some mercy shown to the Dog.

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