I have been madly in love with Law & Order: SVU since 2008, when my freshman self figured out how useful it is in procrastinating. Back in the day, I would watch a few episodes here and there, some marathons on the weekend maybe…but now I consider myself fully obsessed having watched all 16 seasons (+ the episodes from the current season) two times straight through, and now I’m working on going back and watching my favorite seasons for a third time (I’m about 8 seasons in!). I’ve been wanting to write something about my favorite tv show of all eternity for a while now, but after reading this piece from Huffington Post about how SVU promotes healthy ideas about sexual assault…I just couldn’t wait another day.
Everyone should be watching SVU. Here’s why.
1. I don’t know another show with this many strong female characters.
I know there are plenty of shows these days that have strong female characters (I LOVE Christina from Grey’s Anatomy), but I think SVU takes it a step further than most shows. The show premiered in 1999, a year when media portrayals of women was still fairly bleak. Despite that, Episode 1 Season 1 introduced a slew of badass female characters, all of whom were sharks in their careers and none of whom hinged on a male counterpart to function in the show.
At the very top of the list is obviously Olivia Benson, my woman crush every day of the week. She stands strongly on her own, courageous, smart, and tough, and her empathy and compassion are never shown as weaknesses but strengths. She’s never a damsel in distress waiting on her partner to come to her rescue, and she’s never portrayed as his sidekick whatsoever; she handles even the worst perpetrators perfectly well on her own (can I just say she’s thrown some awesome punches over the years! And see below for her effortlessly elbowing a guy in the face.). She kicks butt in the interview room, she’s fearless in the field, and in Season 17 she’s promoted to lieutenant and officially becomes the squad’s commanding officer. Can I get a resounding YAS QUEEN.
Another one of the longest-running characters on the show is Melinda, the shows medical examiner. She’s been in that role since 2000. Additionally, EVERY SINGLE PROSECUTOR has been a woman up until the past few seasons. Every single one! Not to mention the several female defense attorneys who are regulars on the show. And we definitely can’t forget Detective Amanda Rollins who started in Season 13.
These aren’t just token female characters. They’re ALL extraordinarily smart women that are very successful in their careers, careers that are stereotypically considered men’s jobs (detective, lawyer, scientist). I don’t think this is a small accomplishment for a tv show, especially one that has been around since 1999.
2. They’ve been discussing important issues like transgender rights and male sexual assault victims since Season 1.
Again, this is amazing coming from a show that began in 1999. One of the episodes from SEASON ONE is about a male stripper who was raped by three women at a party at which he was hired to perform. Another older episode is about a convicted transgender woman who is physically “still a man” and so was denied entrance into women’s prison (it’s a heartbreaking episode, and a very important one about some very real issues transgender people face.).
Other issues it has addressed include a woman’s right to choose, child abuse and pornography, racism, hate crimes against the LGBT community/immigrant community/etc, the lasting affects of psychological traumas, mental disease, wrongful convictions due to police error, and more. I have often been inspired to look further into issues after seeing them presenting in a thought provoking way on the show.
Bonus: Even though the show’s topics are serious and cover a range of very important issues, it is simultaneously the show with the best one liners ever. Take this one for example, one of my favorites, when cops come in on two guys about to rape an unconscious victim and the SVU detectives are called to the scene.
3. The victim is portrayed clearly as a VICTIM, whether it’s a case of spousal abuse or the victim is a prostitute.
This is, in my opinion, one of the most important points from the Huffington Post article. It doesn’t matter what the victim was wearing, if the perpetrator was a spouse, or even if the victim is in a “risky” profession like prostitution or stripping…this show CLEARLY defines that it is NEVER the victim’s fault. For some reason, we still live in a society that questions rape or abuse victims when they come forward. Blame is still easily shifted to the victim in these types of crimes. I certainly appreciate that a show as popular as SVU addresses this.
The victims in SVU never “deserved it,” they never are forced to carry blame for what they were wearing, doing, saying at the time of the crime.
Oh, and the Huffington Post story pointed out something I’d never thought of before…that in SVU you almost always see the perpetrator through to his or her conviction. You SEE the punishment that is dished out to abusers and rapists, which will hopefully keep eyes open that there are serious consequences to committing a sexual crime.
Anyway. Besides the very powerful reasons I support this show, I also find it extremely entertaining and perfect for binge watching haha. And as Huffington Post says, “the next time you decide to throw on sweatpants, order pizza and stream hours of “Law & Order” episodes, you can feel heartened that you’ve made an excellent choice (on all counts).”