Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. Joanne Belknap


This study draws on Social Learning Theory and uses a content analysis to critically examine the representations of victims, suspects and offenders on fictional crime television shows. Specifically, four such shows were studied: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds, Body of Proof and Rizzoli & Isles. Although some previous research assessed the representations of suspects and offenders on fictional crime television series, examination of the representations of victims is rare, and to date, no study has included such an extensive list of variables. There were two units of analysis used while coding. Coding of the entire show included the year of the episode, number of victims, number of suspects, number of offenders, type of crime and time of the crime. The second unit of analysis included individual victims, suspects and offenders. An extensive range of demographic data was recorded for each victim, suspect and offender. The results from this study indicate that a very narrow lens is used in television fictional crime show portrayals of victims, suspects and offenders. The findings include a relationship between the type of crime and the television show, the victims’ gender and survival rate, the victims’ race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, the victims’ hair color and whether they were drugged, and the victims’ survival and whether they had children with the defendant. There were also significant relationships between the suspects’ gender and the crime show, the suspects’ race/ethnicity and gender, perpetrators’ race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, and the perpetrators’ gender and survival rate.