Law & Order: SVU
is the unit of Law & Order dealing with special victims: sex
victims and sex crimes, in other words. The trustworthy faces of the
‘elite squad’ were and are on TV every week, investigating and
prosecuting crimes that have a sexual nature. The most amazing thing
about a show like this is how it gets made at all. In a world of network
TV, Bush America, Howard Australia etc etc, mainstream audiences have
the option to sit down and switch on sexual violence.
Questions of how sanitised the
portrayal of these crimes is are not really my point. Anyone who knows a
bit about classification in Australia will tell you that the spirit of
the rules is very much against combining sex with violence. X18+ is
explicit sexuality only, which is why films like Pasolini’s Salo
get Refused Classification (RC). And indeed, the stereotype is often
that America can tolerate violence of Biblical proportions with
impunity, but Janet Jackson’s nipple shakes a nation. So for me, the
fact that sexual crimes get mentioned at all is remarkable.
Unlike the ‘straight’ L&O,
where some episodes favour the crime scene and others the courtroom, my
impression is that SVU is heavily slanted toward the crime scene
and the victims—hence the title—rather than the courtroom and the
criminal. This distribution makes sense in my opinion because it allows
the impact of ‘evil deeds’ to be better communicated.
The season’s final episode
(1.22—“Slaves”) is about a young Romanian woman taken into a house and
never let out of sexual servitude. Or take the amazing and confronting
opening episode (1.1—“Payback”) which deals with the difficult issue of
Bosnian war crimes and retribution.
Beside the 22 episodes, the
collection also has generous extras, including a substantial featurette
on the inception of SVU and what goes into making an episode.
This is a must-have for all Law & Order fans and for fans of
crime shows in general. Anyone out there who is largely indifferent to
plain old crime shows: think of SVU as a saucy, guilty pleasure:
a compendium of all those headlines with a dark twist we immediately
jump onto and devour whilst skimming the newspaper.