The ongoing protests of police brutality and racial inequality have shined a light on the positive depiction of police officers on television, as crime procedurals dominate the landscape, but only reality shows have been canceled so far. Paramount Network ended the controversial Cops after three decades on the air, while A&E axed Live P.D. This might lead fans to wonder if Law & Order: Special Victims Unit would be canceled, especially after a Rolling Stone op-ed called for the show's beloved main character Olivia Benson to be "canceled."
It seems unlikely that NBC would cancel the longest-running scripted primetime drama in American television history. The show was renewed for three more seasons earlier this year, and showrunner Warren Leight recently told The Hollywood Reporter the show will not shy away from current events. "There are ways, we will find our way in to tell the story," Leight said when asked how the show would handle George Floyd's murder. "Presumably our cops will still be trying to do the right thing but it's going to be harder for them and they’re going to understand why it's hard for them."
Leight also pointed to changes within the SVU writers' room, confirming he made a "conscious effort" to bring in "new voices, fresh voices, different voices." Leight said his team has "tried really hard" in the past year to show how race and class can affect justice. "This has to be a moment where people make themselves uncomfortable, where people in power have to make themselves uncomfortable," he said.
If SVU gets canceled over this silly article, I swear🤦🏽♀️ Olivia Benson, the one cop that consistently shits on dirty cops and believes every victim you want to cancel? The one cop we all collectively can stand watching every week for 20sum seasons? You wrote this for clicks huh? pic.twitter.com/xhtAjZ7zd8— beeboop3399 (@beeboop3399) June 13, 2020
While many fictional police officers have come under a microscope, Mariska Hargitay's Benson had been seen by many as untouchable. After all, SVU goes out of its way to show Benson will do anything for victims of sexual assault, who are often mistreated in the real world. Benson is a victim of sexual assault herself and will do everything to help victims on the show. Hargitay even began a real-world effort to end the rape kit backlogs across the country.prevnext
However, Rolling Stone's E.J. Dickinson suggested Benson and SVU should not be immune from reconsideration. The show's first 12 seasons included Christopher Meloni's Det. Elliot Stabler, who was a physically abusive "bad cop" and is expected to make a cameo in the Season 22 premiere. Many police officers have cited the show as inspiring their careers. In addition, a Color for Change report noted that crime shows often turn police officers who violate rights into heroes and often to not show the real consequences of an officer's actions.prevnext
Bad take. BAD. TAKE.— Amber Sampson (@AmberDSampson) June 13, 2020
Dickinson argued that viewers cannot be selective about which fictional police officers should be changed. "No matter how much you love Olivia Benson, you have to be willing to grapple with the fact that she plays a major role in perpetuating the idea that cops are inherently trustworthy and heroic, and that many viewers are unable to distinguish between the gossamer fantasy of how justice should be handled, and how it actually is," Dickinson wrote.prevnext
How dare police officers be portrayed positively!— Jessica (@jlc7212007) June 12, 2020
While Hargitay has not spoken out about this particular issue herself, Jamie Grey Hyder, the newest member of the SVU cast has. In an Instagram post published on June 11, Hyder said she believes the show does not shy away "from discussing the shortcomings of the criminal justice and law enforcement systems, and the lack of caring for minority and impoverished victims." Hyder believes her character Kat "would be marching right alongside me, but that would be some meta-a— s—."prevnext
really? a cop show should be cancelled just because it has the portrayal of a “good woman cop”, which isn’t realistic to what’s going on right now? why don’t you focus your time and words on petitions that matter instead of bashing a fictional show? pic.twitter.com/t2aUPQ1HWI— ambahr (@ambahr_here) June 13, 2020