Thursday, October 6, 2011

Law and Order: SVU.

According to Straubhaar, there are a few categories that fall under the realm of antisocial media. But the question is, if these themes apply to a television show, is it necessarily anti social? Take for example one of the popular strands of the Law and Order series, Law and Order: SVU, based on special victims (including rape, sexual abuse, or torture of predominately women and children).  This show presents violence, stereotypes, drug abuse, and sexual behavior; however, I believe a show of this nature does not reinforce negative behavior. 


Law and Order at its core is a cop show, so some of the stereotypes are clear. Elliot Stabler, Played by Christopher Meloni, is the rough and tough male lead. He’s an ex Marine Corps with tattoos who is afraid of vulnerability. He has a major anger management problem yet confides in his Irish/Catholic roots. Many of the episodes one finds that he defends his faith with total blindness. He portrays the standard male-cop role. Then there’s Olivia Benson, played by  Mariska Hargitay, who is the female lead. Compared to Stabler, she is compassionate and warm. She is also the product and eventual victim of rape, which reinforces the idea that women are more susceptible to rape than men. There are even a few episodes that toy with her sexuality, questioning if she is attracted to women, which is easily one of the more common female cop stereotypes found.  Aside from the two leading roles, there are also Detective Fin Tutuola (Ice-T) and Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) one of them black, closely connected to the lower income side of New York and now the drug enforcement agency, and the other a Jew, whose religion is consistently the butt of jokes made within the series. 


The show is saturated in rape and murder. Often scenes show the body (or bodies) of the victims or the act of violence.  In court, gritty details of the attacks are revisited and certainly become content that is inappropriate for children. And while the sexuality featured here is not the kind found on teen dramas, there are episodes that have sexual content regarding to child molestation and rape. 

But the question remains: is it an antisocial or prosocial program? Even though there are elements of antisocial material in the series, the main goal is justice and to rid the greater NYC area of sexual predators and murders. While not all episodes lead to happy endings, they are precautionary tales of how to keep oneself safe, the effects such tragedies have on the victims, and (while marginally fictionalized) the legal process that keeps our justice system intact.It may not be the most recommended series for children to watch and learn from, but in terms of teen and adult programming, there are far worse influences roaming on the television. 

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