On last night’s “very special” episode of Law & Order: SVU, the on-going saga between Chris Brown and Rihanna was dramatized for television audiences, replete with Dave Navarro as a record producer named “Ferrari.” Neat? First of all, this is about as “ripped from the headlines” as the time that Quantum Leap had to stop the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Sure, Chris Brown and Rihanna are still, disgustingly ever-present in the pop-cultural eye, but they’ve long since shifted from an unfortunate but powerful example of the dangers of domestic violence into some kind of epic Greek tragedy about the disasters of being rich, famous, and surrounded by people too scared of losing their meal-ticket to HELP YOU. (Every time that Rihanna says in an interview that she doesn’t want to be a role-model, an angel barf so hard its wings fall off. Come the fuck ON. For one thing, you kind of are a role-model by virtue of being a public figure whose primary audience is 12-25 year-old girls, SO SORRY ABOUT THAT. And second of all, there is a huge gap between simply not being a role model and whatever the hell Rihanna is even doing these days with her incessant Instagramming of mega-Blunts and Chris Brown’s horrible fucking face. Live your life, sure, but leave us out of it please.) One could try to make the argument that Law & Order: SVU is using this well-known and unfortunate situation to dramatically explore the procedural, legal, and uncomfortable dynamics of domestic violence, but that is like saying that Intervention is really about getting people help. Uh, no. Look, the Law & Order family of television is a fun family. We all love to be part of that family from time to time. But surely the Chris Brown and Rihanna thing is too disgusting even for them to simply use it as a launchpad for a Liz & Dick-style audience grab with a completely vacuous take on something that is all too real and outside the bounds of the make-believe court system at this point. (Obviously, of course, it is NOT AT ALL too disgusting, since the episode aired last night. This happened. We were too late!) At a certain point it would be cool if the world took full stock of its inventory and didn’t trivialize every single nightmare into an advertisement-filled brain nap, you know? But maybe that is just me. It is almost certainly just me. Party on, Garths.

Comments (25)
  1. when’s the “very special” kurt and courtney episode airing?

  2. This seems gross.

  3. The Law and Order franchise has been doing this for about 75 years if I’m not mistaken, and this is where we say “enough”?? The OJ Simpson and Jon Benet Ramsey inspired episodes immediately spring to mind as more controversial…

    I dunno, I mean I guess this gets an eyeroll from me…but I can’t really get worked up into full “hold the fuck up Law and Order!!” mode over this.

  4. While I’m sure this was a very good television show in its own right, I was too enthralled by the emotional roller coaster that Liz and C-Czar were going through over on Ice Dating.

  5. hollywood making money off of disgusting abusive relationships in which women are victimized? pshaww. it’s not like men in hollywood aren’t given a pass for abuse because of their money (roman polanski anyone?). actually you could probably just apply that statement to rich men in general. as long as they are hitting a woman instead of a dog it’s totally okay. once you fuck with an animal it is time to go to jail for real.

  6. given that the majority of the other episodes use the rape of children as fodder, I’m not sure this one is where my bright line would be if we’re going down the “but is it appropriate as entertainment?” road…

    • Plus I reeeally hate it when they have the “children’s drawings” on these shows. They’re so obviously drawings that adults from the art department made with crayons and a mild attempt to remove perspective. And children’s drawing are so awesome free and expressive and genuinely interesting to look at! but again, if we’re really going to pick things to hate, it would be the exploitation of child rape to garner advertising dollars…

  7. also, i tend to forgive law and order for the sins it commits because it was like my second parent growing up. when mama was at work law and order kept us in the house, scared of rapists and psycho killers.

  8. SVU has always been the most depressing of the lot. A female detective, herself the result of a rape, investigating rapes. All the wisecracks in the world from Belzer and Ice T can’t soften that up.

    • I think Cold Case is a million times more depressing. It is also more interesting, especially when they are trying to solve a murder from the 60s or 70s, but it focuses much more on the victim in flashbacks. And the use of music in Cold Case is pretty great.

      Now one of the detectives from Cold Case is Benson’s partner on SVU. Circle of TV.

  9. SVU mad.

  10. I’m upset that they [SPOILER ALERT, AS IF ANYONE CARES ABOUT THIS GARBAGE] ended up with the Chris Brown guy killing the Rihanna girl. I suppose that could be taken as a classic CSI dramatic spin or even a cautionary tale about what *could* happen to Rihanna if someone doesn’t step in, but it seemed to trivialize domestic violence for its own sake to me. As if to say this shit only gets awful when it gets sensational. It sounds nitpicky when I write it all out but, I don’t know, it does seem to provide an excuse for the millions of men who do actually beat women. They watch shit like this and can get themselves off the hook because they know they’d never actually kill her. And it makes Chris Brown look a lot better in comparison (Gawker today called it “slander,” which is sort of close to true, if it’s possible to slander a violent man child) because, hey, it’s not like Rihanna’s dead. “Lay off Chris Brown, CSI. What’d he ever do to you.” No, no, no. His actions deserve genuine conversation and analysis. Not overhyped ratings grabs.

    tl;dr sensationalizing an ugly truth is a huge disservice to the ugly truth itself.

    • But turning the story into a murder is kind of an obligatory technical detail for Law and Order? Like, this always happens?

      “As the Twin Towers fell somebody got murdered in an alley.”
      “Drone operators suffer from PTSD and one of them murders somebody.”
      “Manti Te’o got catfished and then the imposter girlfriend was murdered.”
      “Mayor Bloomberg bans large sodas, Pepsi distributor becomes serial killer.”

      These days the hacky writing trivializes everything it touches.

      • Beltzer: “So what? You think all these murders were justified? Maybe we should set him free and give him a medal while we’re at it?”

        Ice-T: “Nah. All I’m saying is that some people don’t want a nanny state tellin’ em how much Sprite they can drink.”

        Ict-T puts tiny beverage cup on Beltzer’s desk and walks away.


  11. I used to really like SVU, but I gave up on it a while back. I still love the original Law & Order, especially the Jerry Orbach era.

  12. Honestly i just read the headline. Then

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  14. Ice-T with a grappling gun would really spice SVU up a smidgen.

  15. Confessiongum: I love SVU. Like LOVE love it. I’ve watched it since basically the beginning so like 45 years ago. Admittedly, I enjoy it because it is the most terrible, cliche, badly-written, overacted, procedural cop drama ever created. Also, how can you beat Belzer and Ice T wisecracking terribly. But the thing is, I’ve come to the conclusion lately that liking something ‘ironically’ is cool and everything, but that really means you still legitimately like it.

    I have been building an extraordinarily elaborate SVU drinking game with several friends of mine over several years. The show is so predictable that most rules have always held up through the seasons. We literally keep track of the rules via a shared Google Doc and I am not kidding. There are even season-specific rules. We will be hanging out, and go: “throw on SVU S04E09, we’ll get super hammered”. In the current season there is this guy playing the prosecutor that is the greatest over-actor of all time, so much so that I wonder if he isn’t doing it on purpose. It’s like he’s winking at me. It’s a shame that Stabler bailed. He’s one of the greatest over-actors of all time.

    • And plus the way that Ice T enthusiastically live tweeted the first couple of episodes of the current season (with pics and everything) and then just kind of got bored of it and stopped, makes it an awesome multi-dimensional experience for me. Also forgive me I have had some vodka.

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