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Monday, December 16, 2013
Law And Order Is As Conservative As Its Title Would Lead You To Expect
I realize that the enormously popular endlesssly ramifying Law and Order series are regarded as more progressive than not, if only because it is an "isssues-oriented" show set in urban areas and hence cannot help but reflect realities of multicultural conviviality and income-inequality and patriarchal violence in ways that in simply finding their way to screen at all deflect lots of insane but popular white-racist patriarchal meritocratic conservative myths. Nevertheless, the actual dramatic narrative of the majority of the episodes will depend on or at any rate defer at some point to a complete fantasy of a criminal and justice system coddling criminals by finding fanciful excuses to dismiss charges on prodcedural grounds or putting defendants before fantastically tolerant sentimental juries looking for any excuse to put violent criminals back on the streets. Of course, the justice system is, to the contrary, deeply skewed in precisely the opposite direction, vindictively punitive especially to the poor, distressed, underserved populations, and surreally skewed for young men of color caught up in even minor disputes or with drug possession and so on. The fantasy of liberal judges and juries menacing innocent whites and suburbanites is entirely a reactionary fantasy, and it is endlessly reiterated by the enabling narrative structure of Law and Order. And this is not even to mention the many individual episodes that have been premised on ridiculous racist and sexist stereotypes, often justified by the "ripped right from the headlines" courting of ugly controversies incomparably more complex than a formula crime procedure drama could hope to do justice to in an hour. I also worry about the curious sociopathic monsterization of criminality that "criminal profiling" versions of Law and Order (and their many variations, Criminal Minds perhaps most conspicuous) divert the popular imagination of criminal violence, which is still declining in general and still overwhelmingly undertaken between friends, family, and acquaintance, into fantasies of a stealthy subhuman "criminal species" of sociopaths and masterminds and sinister stranger that must be hunted to extinction, fantasies all too prone to latch onto racist, sexist, classist, ablist, ageist, heterosexist and cissexist prejudices and paranoias no less fantastic. And even if some of these shows do the small service of testifying to the overwhelming crisis of violence against women and children and the horrifying stigmatization and harassment of survivors of rape, especially the ones who seek to convict their rapists -- this is more than made up for by the unquestionable tendency of these shows to make a spectacle of the relentless violation, torture, pathologization, punishment of anybody anywhere who ever has sex that strays the least bit from married procreative intercourse in the missionary position between bourgeois couples who wear the most conventional clothing imaginable when they are not naked under the covers with one another in their boring bedrooms which, face it, can't be often. Also, in all the commercials for the show it always sounds like the announcer is calling it Lawn Dorder. Man, I hate that.