Law and Order: SVU

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SVU themes: Profiling, degree of certainty. Is this deliberate, or structured as dark comedy?

Attack on Bruce Rind in one episode. Repetition of "NAMBLA".

Reinforces modern (uncertainty) discourse of pedophilia as a threat.


"Does 'Special' Mean Young, White and Female? Deconstructing the Meaning of 'Special' in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," in the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 14(1)

""Law & Order: SVU" frequently portrays detectives using renegade tactics in order to get confessions and convictions. [...] The use of such tactics (excessive force, control talk, violations of police procedure) are rarely questioned or frowned upon, instead they are treated as a normal part of policing. On “SVU” there is an average of 1.12 civil rights violations per episode; the most common violations are use of excessive force and failure to read a suspect their Miranda warnings. These violations were never punished in the 2003-2004 season of “SVU”. On the rare occasion that a violation of civil rights was mentioned by a character on the program it was in the form of a verbal warning to “calm down” so that the case would not be jeopardized. More typically, civil rights violations were shown as part of doing business with heinous criminals. The importance of civil rights to the United States justice system are almost never mentioned on “SVU”, instead violations of these rights are normalized and the implicit message is that suspects and offenders have too many rights. Combine this with frequent control talk, which implies an “us” versus “them” mentality, from police officers and the impression you are left with is that police officers need to resort to any means necessary to protect “us” from “them.” (Cavendar & Fishman, 1998; Eschholz et al., 2004).
The images typically presented on “SVU” and other crime dramas are of an extremely efficient police department that can be relied on to get the job done, even if it requires bending the rules and violating a defendants civil rights (Sparks, 1995; Eschholz et al, 2004). The normalization of civil rights violations is combined with the use of control talk that emphasizes the positive function of the police and the criminal justice system as agents of control in protecting society from a variety of evils, while demonizing offending populations (Cavender & Fishman, 1998). The end result is a reduction of the understanding of crime causes to evil offenders and a reduction of crime solutions to policing and tough sentences."