Tuesday, August 27, 2013

<i>Law & Order: SVU</i> is About to Make a Lot of People Angry

Posted By on Tue, Aug 27, 2013 at 11:57 AM

c/o NBC

If there were ever an appropriate time to quote Samuel Jackson's famous line from Jurassic Park, it would be now. Hold onto your butts. When "Law & Order: SVU" returns with its 15th season on September 25th, the show is set to air an episode where a character based on Paula Deen shoots a character based on Trayvon Martin.

As you can imagine, this spun right-wing pundits into a hissy fit. Fox News' morning show "The Five," which is some sort of bizzaro version of "The View," dug into the show's team by comparing the upcoming episode to a "grade school project" and "as predictable as the New York Times editorial." The author of that last quote, Eric Bolling, also added that the episode "[yanks] America's race scab right off." Boohoo, boohoo!

For one, none of us should be surprised that "SVU," or any of the past "Law & Order" series, is reappropriating and sensationalizing headline news. There was the Spitzer episode in 2008, the O'Reilly episode in 2005, and the Akin "legitimate rape" episode in March. Nor should we be surprised that "SVU" leans heavily on the liberal's side: an infamous 2009 episode had a character proclaim that three pundits who bore an uncanny resemblance to the ones you're thinking of were "a cancer spreading ignorance and hate."

What we should reel back in horror from, however, is that the forthcoming "SVU" episode mixes two related but separate tragedies for... what? Even if you agree with SVU's politics, what are they really saying by making a portmanteau out of Deen and Zimmerman? That both of them are racist? We know that.

I think it's unethical. While both camps of the 24-hour news world perhaps irresponsibly manage their subjects and stories—and occasionally flirt with the unethical—they're only shallow and short-sighted most of the time, like that overeager kid in your English 101 class. 24-Hour news is in the business of sensationalizing the news under the guise of reportage, but narrative TV shows, like "SVU," have to be responsible because they fictionalize and represent the news. It's one thing to write an episode that takes a stab at Spitzer and essentially repeat that story within a spectacular plot, but it's another thing to jam two coincidental stories together that only share a social ill, however criminal. I don't really care if Deen's name is rubbed in the mud, or that the outcome of the Zimmerman trial is further decried. The episode is set to devalue and misrepresent both stories, confusing heightened social awareness and activism with nightly entertainment.

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