Sorry, Olivia Benson Is Canceled Too
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A few days ago I scrolled through TikTok and saw one with Olivia Benson, the beloved star of Law and Order: SVU, played by Mariska Hargitay. The TikTok is titled "#when I say ACAB" and the sound comes from Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry". "I hope you know, I hope you know / that it has nothing to do with you," dubbed the woman in the TikTok lip syncs as if it hurt her, Olivia Benson and the anti-cop feeling in one breath to mention.
There is a similar feeling on social media, where defusing and abolishing the police has become an omnipresent collective call. "The only policewoman I respect is Olivia Benson," said a tweet. "NOT ALL HEADS ... You are right, SVU Olivia Benson would NEVER," reads another. Also as fictional police officers from The Wire's Det.Bunk Moreland to Chase by Paw Patrol come under the microscope, Olivia Benson is in a different class overall. It is the minority, the liberation, the special case. You and you alone, as is generally agreed, may wrap yourself in the Good Policeman's mantle.
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If there were a patron saint of liberal women, it would be Olivia Benson, to the extent that Taylor Swift (a totem for white femininity, if ever there was one) named one of her cats after her. And that makes a lot of sense. For 21 years, Olivia Benson has been the epitome of Good Cop, the embodiment of all the qualities that we would like law enforcement officials to have: it is tough, but fair, vulnerable, but with steely eyes, shows constant compassion for survivors and offers no quarter for perpetrators . She always fights for victims and believes them, a stark contrast to real law enforcement officers, whose records of convicting sex offenders are miserable.
The fact that Hargitay used her platform in real life to work to remove residue from rape sets only adds to the character's good faith. Olivia is a warrior of social justice in the truest, not derogatory sense, a law enforcement officer who is not motivated by high school quotas or bullying impulses, but has a serious desire to do the right thing for the survivors at all times. Only a demon, a sociopath, or the President of the United States would deal with her. It is great by all standards.
Some viewers (especially survivors of sexual violence) have always had a tacit understanding that this is pure fantasy, and that's one of the reasons the show is so popular: it presents an alternative version of the reality in which the judicial system works as it is supposed to be and observing that can heal Accepting that this is pure fantasy also allows people to overlook some of the more problematic aspects of the show, such as that most victims are young white women, the amalgamation of sex trafficking with consensual sex work, rampant transphobia and that The fact that Elliot Stabler, the platonic ideal of an emotionally unbalanced, physically abusive bad cop, is played by a man who is so hot and charismatic that he should be illegal.
But not everyone who observes Law and Order: SVU interacts with them under these conditions. A not inconsiderable number of police officers attributed their decision to enter law enforcement to the show, and it can be assumed that an even greater number of viewers will see the show and believe that police officers like Olivia Benson are generally on the police side vulnerable and disenfranchised. And this trope has a significant impact on real life: According to a report by Color of Change (which contains a screenshot of SVU on the cover), crime series make "heroes out of people who violate our rights" and "do not represent reality, causes or consequences of [racial differences in criminal justice] exactly. "
The protests against the brutality of the police have led to a necessary discussion about the dandelion formation of police officers in popular culture and how such tropics cause us to consider police officers as a force for good, even if there is enough evidence in real life the opposite is there. Law and order: SVU show runner Warren Leight himself discussed this in a Hollywood reporter podcast and said: “People watch the shows to see heroes. It is your responsibility to at least represent reality - as close to reality as possible. “And these discussions have led to real-life changes: at least two reality shows with police officers have been canceled after the protests, and LEGO has launched a marketing campaign for its latest police toy set. Some producers, such as Monk's Tom Scharpling, have even published a kind of Mea Culpas and tweeted that those who have worked on series in which cops are portrayed as "lovable goofballs ... have contributed to the greater acceptance that cops implicitly do." Are good ".
It can be assumed that cultural professionals will be careful, at least for some time, to depict police officers in a positive light, and that this will result in some much-needed changes being made across the country in the studio's authoring rooms and brainstorming sessions .
But Olivia Benson won't change fundamentally because nobody wants Olivia Benson to change. We probably won't see her try to hire more colored policemen. We probably won't see George Floyd being included in the storylines in anything other than a fleeting, headline-grabbing way. We probably won't see her brought to justice before an internal audit committee for overseeing a policeman who beat up a black male suspect. Such changes contradict the paradigm that governs the show and, as Leight says, "how to deal with justice," even if it is very rare.
No matter how tense the role of law enforcement officers in cultural imagination, no matter how embedded it is in a system that maintains racism, misogyny and brutality, nobody wants to see Olivia Benson as anything other than a heroine. We have to believe that the system is not completely broken. We have to believe that police officers are not completely impossible to redeem. We have to believe that some cops can be good because Olivia Benson is good, even though she is held up as an exception to the rule, which maintains the #nallallops thinking that causes some people to nod their heads when Fox News demonized the first place.
The truth is, you can't choose what to change if you think the system is broken and major changes need to be made at all levels to fix the problem. No matter how much you love Olivia Benson, you need to be ready to face the fact that she plays an important role in maintaining the idea that police officers are inherently trustworthy and heroic, and that many viewers are unable to to distinguish between the sheer fantasy of how to deal with justice and how it actually is. When police officers are canceled, it means that all police officers are canceled, right down to the strong and pretty ones we like to see pedophiles collapse in interrogation rooms. Revolution cannot be built on the back of exceptions, and those who maintain toxic systems cannot be considered immune to criticism just because we like them. It's the simplest equation out there: if all the bulls are bastards and Olivia Benson is a policewoman, it means she's kind of a bastard. (But Mariska is cool.)
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