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Screenshot: Why a sex-crimes show is surprisingly female-friendly

As this year winds down and the television channels lay fallow before the January kick-off, there's not a lot for a dedicated TV-watcher to do except see which show marathon on which channel will likely suck away six hours of your day if you're careful.

Let me make a suggestion: try the Law & Order: SVU marathon, which airs on Sunday, December 27, 2009, from 9 a.m. eastern on. I say this not because shows about busting up child slavery routes and questioning whether the law is protecting the right person in fetal alcohol cases is a real post-holiday mood lifter. I say this because the show is refreshing. Let me count the ways:

The women on this show tend to be dignified. In a TV landscape where women are routinely shown as hyperemotional and unprofessional (I'm looking at you, Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty), watching the no-nonsense Detective Olivia Benson is a cool, calm drink of water. I have big love for Diane Neal as ADA Casey Novak as well. Maybe it's residual trauma from the Ally McBeal era; I'm just grateful when a female lawyer on TV isn't hallucinating or openly weeping over her ticking biological clock.

The detectives on the show are aware of gender and how it may make people susceptible to certain crimes -- but they don't see the law in gendered terms. In other words, this is the exact opposite approach of every story you've ever seen in a newspaper where some crackpot legislator decides that the role of the state is to tell private citizens what's what in their uteri. I'm not suggesting that the show is an oasis of feminism -- but it is populated by characters who do not see the world in terms of "people" and then "women."

Finally, knowing that every Law & Order: SVU episode is going to have the same structure -- reveal of the victim, detective taking point, detecting and strategizing going on, presumed perp caught after a few scenes, the legal wrangling that does or doesn't get the perp off the hook, the ironic final scene that's supposed to make you think -- oh, my gosh, it is soothing to know that no matter how insane the rest of TV's scripted or reality fare may get, there will be one show where Olivia Benson, eyes shining with righteous wrath and a jaw as set as her sense of duty, is fixing the world in under 53 minutes.

Some days, that's all you need.

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Comments

4 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I don't know... as someone

I don't know... as someone who has been through that system as a victim and has assisted people as a social service provider, I don't see the show as all that refreshing.

Meh.

I used to watch SVU off and on, for the reasons you stated - until the Season 8 episode "Burned," which was absolutely sickening. At the time, I wrote:

[T]his particular ep. involved a woman who made a false accusation of rape against her husband in order to gain the upper hand in their divorce (and the ensuing custody dispute over their daughter). The detectives (and the audience) believed the woman - the "so-called victim" - throughout most of the hour. However, in the last ten minutes or so of the program, the husband made bail on the rape charge, confronted the wife in the street outside court, doused her in gasoline, and set her on fire. She subsequently admitted to the detectives in the ER that she made the whole thing up. Right before dying.

The implication - both implicit and actually stated (though not in so many words) - was that the lying slut pushed an otherwise nonviolent and decent man too far - she was "asking for it". A false rape charge apparently justifies murder. And a grisly one at that.

I was especially offended that the victim-blaming took place in the context of a "ripped from the headlines" show - remember the case of Yvette Cade, whose estranged husband burst into her workplace, threw a 7UP can full of gas on her, and topped it off with a lit match? AFTER Douchebag District Judge Richard A. Palumbo refused to extend the restraining order she had against him? AND made belittling remarks to her? I usually enjoy the "ripped from the headline" shows, but this was beyond tasteless. A woman who was abused by the court system, set on fire by her batterer, and is now disfigured for life....fodder for NBC's shitty misogynistic fairytales? Talk about adding insult to injury.

And this seems to be the general direction in which the Law & Order franchise is headed. A few weeks ago, they aired a show based on the Shawn Hornbeck case...only this time, Ben Ownby wound up dead, and ("so-called") victim Shawn was later discovered to be his killer. Because Ben was competition for pedophile/kidnapper Michael Devlin's attentions (!). Talk about blaming the victim. Bill O'Reilly ain't got nothing on Law & Order!

Adding insult to injury, NBC decorated the show's page with stills of a badly burned Michael Michele, which you can find here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smiteme/353001047/

Needless to say, I have not watched SVU since.

hummm...

did nbc universal, in a last ditch effort to spruce their dying Wednesday night ratings pay you to for this implicit publicity booster-upper...if so, you failed to mention the strong women on Bravo's Real Houswives, now that's a show nbc universal is proud of, they keep taking it to ever farther expanding cities across the US bringing us reality housewives.
good jpb nbc universal, no wonder GE had to sell you to the lowest bidder.

While I don't watch Law and

While I don't watch Law and Order, I find that type of TV entertaining because you can just jump in, watch an episode, it's going to generally be pretty fast paced, something exciting is going to happen and it will be resolved by the end of the episode, awesome way to kill an hour! Does it always have to be because women feel something subconsciously that draws them to whatever it is they're interested in?