For 17 seasons (and counting), this screen appears on the nation’s television before every episode of “Law and Order: SVU,” but how true is this statement?
Although this statement leads viewers to believe that the episode they are about to watch isn’t about a specific person or event, it doesn’t say anything about basing their episodes off of real life events and crimes. The writers of “SVU” are actually paying attention to headlines, they just end up putting their own spin on the real life crimes.
I have been an avid viewer of the show for years now, and there have been countless episodes I’ve watched where the plot has been ripped from national headlines in regards to sex crimes and domestic violence.
In the past couple of years, there have been countless stories in the news that have made for great episodes of “SVU,” including Ray Rice punching and dragging his fiancee out of an elevator, the domestic violence between Chris Brown and Rihanna, and the mysterious life of Robert Durst who they based the season 17 premiere episode on (aired September 23).
But, the talented writers have been basing their episodes on headlines ever since the first season aired; in fact at the end of the first season, they ripped a story from national headlines and used it for an intriguing episode. In episode 22 of season one, a wealthy hot-shot lawyer and his wife are keeping a Romanian immigrant in their house as a sex slave.
This episode was based on a kidnapping event that took place right in Pennsylvania: Thomas Hose, a security guard at a 14-year-old Tanya Kach’s middle school, kidnapped her and kept her as a sex slave for a decade.
This episode aired in 1999, a couple years after the girl was kidnapped so the similarities could have been picked up on quite easily.
In more recent years, “SVU” has had a field day with several headlines. Most recently, the controversy surrounding the incident Ray Rice abusing his wife on camera. Last season, SVU tackled the nationally recognized incident by airing an episode that was almost identical to the fight between Ray Rice and his fiancee.
Ice T, who plays Finn Tutuola, comes across a video in a parking garage of a former NFL player and his wife fighting. The next thing they know, she’s being dragged because she’s unconcious. (Sound familiar?)
“SVU” isn’t afraid to tackle the big headlines, and they don’t discriminate either. They tackle everyone from football players to big celebrities.
I’m sure everyone remembers the dometic violence that occured between Chris Brown and Rihanna in 2009 when he punched her in the face. Well, four years later, (SVU likes to be sneaky) they decided it was time to come out with an episode about it.
“SVU” didn’t spare on the similarities in the “fictional story that doesn’t depict any actual person or event.”
For example, a 2013 episode featured Chris Brown, an abusive boyfriend, a hip hop star who hit his girlfriend on multiple occasions. “SVU” took the storyline one step further and in the last scene of the episode the hip hop star strangled his girlfriend.
Unlike Rihanna, who left Chris Brown, this episode had a not so subliminal message as to what happens to those who stay in abusive relationships.
I think it’s safe to say that the ship on the “fictional story” has sailed.
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, “SVU” began their 17th season and the familiar pattern appeared again.
Robert Durst, who has an HBO documentary dedicated to him, is an extremely wealthy heir. He was accused of murdering his wife and a witness named Susan to his alleged crime.
Dr. Rudnick, who was the star of “SVU” in its opening episode, is a medical examiner who was accused and of murdering his fiance and witness who also happened to be named Susan, but the similarities don’t stop there.
Both were extremely wealthy, both liked to cross dress, and both were caught because they were shoplifting even though they had endless wealth. They also both confessed on a microphone that they didn’t know was there.
Well, “SVU” decided that they weren’t going to go with subtlety this season. With the most recent national headlines including a very scandalous and ongoing story with the Duggar family, who knows what the show will do with that headline.
But, be aware: the next time you’re watching a “Law and Order: SVU” episode, and you see the screen that says, “The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event” to do some research and just see how true that actually is.
Keeley Gould is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. She can be reached at KG787739@wcupa.edu