TV shows can become just as big as movies or even bigger depending on their stories, fanbase, and exposure. For over two decades, there has been a show big enough to be recognized globally. No matter where you are from or what language you speak, you have seen at least one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU). The show has aired in multiple countries and has been translated to several languages. It has an audience that has been growing since 1999. Nowadays, a large number of its fans discuss the topic of representation. As we continue to change towards a more diverse media representation, it is important to talk about this well-known TV show and representation.
Late at night on September 3rd, there was an uproar within the SVU fandom. Give Me My Remote was the first source to announce two of the newest members of the cast would exit the show during season 23. Deadline and other outlets joined with more details in the early hours of September 4th, and the disappointment continued to grow as fans worldwide became aware of the news.
The characters leaving the show are BIPOC and LGBTQ+, making fans once again feel like representation continues to lack in the show. The exit of Demore Barnes and Jamie Gray Hyder means this cast will now be composed of a white man, two white women, and one BIPOC character who barely gets screen time as it is. Leaving the rest of the world unrepresented in a show that means so much to so many.
How realistic will it be to see a squad composed of one Captain, one Sergeant, one Detective, and one A.D.A? If we are honest, not realistic at all, and the fans know this. They took over Twitter to talk about their anger when it comes to representation in a show that means so much to so many. Being angry in situations like this is completely valid because we are still fighting to get accurate representation on screen, and SVU seems to be failing us.
The anger and the sadness grew when actress Gray Hyder confirmed leaving the show was not her choice. So, who decided it would be okay to erase the two characters who make a large number of fans feel seen?
A viewer’s opinion
I have been watching SVU since I was nine years old. For the last 16 years, I have watched and rewatched every episode multiple times. I have created friendships and strong bonds over the show. I have met cast members. I have found comfort in the character of Olivia Benson. Although it discusses tough cases and life situations, it is a show that comforts me because it has been a part of my life for a long time. Captain Benson is a character that makes so many of us feel safe.
However, as the seasons have progressed, I have noticed there are no characters like me. I do not see Latinx characters who do not portray the perp or the victim. The only LGBTQ+ character left is now being erased. Why is it that a show so big cannot accurately represent society? Do we really think a squad is composed of mainly white people? Where are the BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and Latinx characters? Why are we being disregarded?
Even though representation is lacking, many of us will continue to find comfort in this show because of Olivia Benson and Mariska Hargitay.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has been around for as long as we can all remember. You turn the TV on, no matter where you are, and there will be an episode playing. It is a show we all talk about. A show that for the longest time has talked about a topic that needed to be discussed. But, what happens when it does not portray society correctly? Why are we still having to raise our voices when it comes to this well-known TV show and representation?