Killer Corn and Capitalist Pigs: Forensic Noir and Television Portrayals of Modern Agricultural Technology


  • Annie R. Specht is an assistant professor of Agricultural Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She holds a doctorate in Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications from Texas A&M University.


Forensic noir, a subgenre of the popular television crime drama, presents science as the definitive solution for solving crimes. At the same time, forensic noir programs portray technology used for economic gain—such as that used in modern “industrial agriculture”—as detrimental to the human condition. These warring interpretations of science present an intriguing critique of capitalism from within the capitalist structure of commercial entertainment. In this qualitative study, episodes of two programs, CSI: Miami and Bones, were content-analyzed for characteristics of the forensic-noir category as well as for elements illustrating the dual nature of their anticapitalist critique of science, technology, and modern agriculture. In these episodes, the crimes committed were directly related to intensive production agriculture and the owners and operators of those production facilities vilified for disregarding the human and environmental impacts of their businesses in their quest for profit. The visual imagery depicted agricultural facilities as “crime scenes” and treated agricultural products as evidence. The forensic dramas painted a largely negative portrait of modern production agriculture as exploitative and profit-driven—criticisms often lobbed at television as a medium for cultural production.