What Would Elliot and Olivia Do?

My name is The Chair and I am a Law and Order addict.   And my particular drug of choice is Elliot and Olivia.

So clearly I was in heaven this week. 

Me all week

For two hours I got to see the reunion of two of my favorite TV characters, the above detectives played by Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, on L and O: Special Victims Unit and on Meloni’s new series, L and O: Organized Crime.

Yes, all their mesmerizing, simmering chemistry is still present as is their dedication to the job.  Of course, the rules of their job have changed since we met them a full 22 years ago but so have they.  More importantly, so have we.

EL AND LIV 4EVER

Today’s laws for policing are different.  On second thought, maybe it’s more that the laws on the books are now finally beginning to be enforced.  Cops wear body cams, DNA evidence is irrefutable and every eyewitness has a device to back up what they claim was done.

Together Elliot and Olivia bent the rules to protect the victims and the innocents, or at the very least ensure them some sort of personal justice.  Forever partners in stopping the bad guys, they managed to do this by channeling their deeply complex feelings for each other into cracking an infinity of awful, sickening and truly unimaginable crimes.

… and looked this good doing it

The deal, and the lure of their imaginary relationship in their imaginary world, is they figure out a way to go there and score victories for humanity and we get to believe that at the end of the day good can and often will triumph over evil. 

More times than I’d like to admit, Olivia and Eliot made me believe I might likely be safe and that life was not so much perfect but hopeful.  I think I can even speak for many fans and say most especially they also make us feel that even the worst trauma is potentially survivable.

She even triumphed over this haircut, which is saying something

If their stories are truly ripped from the headlines why can’t the outcomes of each episode also be within the realm of possibility? Why not believe things might be some degree of okay? 

For years and years, because let’s face it, when is Law and Order: Special Victims Unit NOT being broadcast (Note: At this point it’s older than most of my college students) we’ve known in our hearts it doesn’t ALWAYS work out that way.

On the other hand, given the antics of Olivia and Elliot, it also could.

I can hear this pic

Certainly there are worse things than to be addicted to and to delight in than the righting of wrongs for the disenfranchised by those good people, nee cops, working within our very flawed, but yet still somehow functional system. 

Or, well, has this kind of mythmaking now finally come home to roost and become part of our collective problem?

I wish that I could definitively state that my obsession for Elliot and Olivia/Olivia and Elliot (Note: Which one is it?) existed in real life and in real time and it was justice for the victim, balanced with adherence to the law, that makes me crazy with delight.

Because sometimes I really do believe this is so.

As I watched the trial of Minneapolis’ ex-cop Derek Chauvin live on TV for the murder of George Floyd this week this indeed seemed to be the case.

Law and order?

Chauvin’s the white guy we’ve now watched more times than we can now count, via iPhone footage, extinguish the life of Mr. Floyd, a large Black man who was suspected of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a supermarket, a bill the clerk is now saying Mr. Floyd likely didn’t even know was fake.

Nevertheless, Mr. Chauvin and his fellow officers wrestled their handcuffed suspect to the ground, where Mr. Chauvin placed the full weight of his knee and, it now seems, entire body on Mr. Floyd, who spent the majority of nine plus minutes pleading for his life, screaming I can’t breathe and eventually crying out for his mama as he died.

All this as Mr. Chauvin casually looked up at the sky and out to the city streets, perhaps even wondering what he would have for dinner that night.  (Note: Yes, it seemed THAT casual).

That this needs to even be said…

But what he never appeared to be considering at all were the shouts of the crowd of innocent bystanders gathering around him, demanding he stop the pressure, stop ignoring their pleas and generally stop his slow and deliberate choice to break the very laws he was hired to uphold in the name of enforcing them.

Watching the testimony of those random bystanders this week – a 9-year-old girl, an off-duty female firefighter/EMT, a middle-aged martial arts expert, and a sixty something Black man who just happened to be walking by – all break down on the stand as they re-experienced the guilt they felt at not doing more in the moment to prevent Mr. Chauvin’s debacle of justice as he ended Mr. Floyd’s life, was difficult.

In some ways, they were like a fine cast of supporting characters from one of the most harrowing of SVU episodes.  People who would clearly carry this trauma their entire lives but without the benefit of either Olivia or Elliot’s personal touch.  At the very least they wouldn’t have the business cards they offer with their direct lines and the assurance to call anytime they run into trouble in the future, or if they just want to talk. 

If only they were real life superheroes

As each angle of the Floyd/Chauvin tapes played, and with each recounting of events, one found oneself hoping for a different outcome for Mr. Floyd, his witnesses and even for Mr. Chauvin, all the while knowing this was impossible.  It was like the worst kind of rerun because you so wanted it to be series TV and not be real.

Still, every one came across as an imperfectly perfect dramatic TV moment, a hope vs. fear scenario told in real time. 

The latter is what I learned to do years ago as a young writer and a recurrent lesson I try to impart to my students.

The way the lesson goes is most stories are not so much mysteries but a suspense tug of war between what we WANT to happen and what FEAR will inevitably happen. 

It does get tricky

We KNOW the odds are stacked against justice prevailing but we HOPE justice will win the day.  We FEAR the chances our hero has to figure this all out in time to emerge victorious with a win are slim but we still KNOW, or at least, HOPE they have a shot.

It’s the writer’s job to believably represent that constant push and pull in the story by a masterful reveal of the facts and choosing how much and at what point to reveal them.  If done properly the audience will stay with us and fearfully hope for the outcome they (Note: And we, the writer) want because that outcome is only right and possible.

After all, we can look back on our own lives and count at least a few times where things fell into place and we got lucky with a confluence of events and our actions.  Why couldn’t that happen for the hero we are rooting for here?  Why can’t the type of people unlucky enough to witness the death of a man like George Floyd, as he’s being physically restrained by a cop like Derek Chauvin, emerge with some sense of triumph after their harrowing day on the witness stand recounting what is likely the most harrowing day of their life?

If it happens all the time on Law and Order, might it happen just this once on this day? 

I know Liv… I know

It’s unfortunate the witnesses on that Minneapolis street on May 25, 2020 don’t have the caliber of writers Elliot and Olivia had, and have, executing their outcomes.   

For that they will have to depend on us, or at least our surrogates – the jury.

Twelve people and two alternates, eight of who are white and six of whom identify as people of color, including four who are black.

Let’s hope they are all as committed to justice as we Law and Order junkies presume to be.  And let’s pray they are not just there to hold up the status quo rules of some rarefied and benevolent system that we fans have talked ourselves into believing exists just because it makes us feel better.

Law and Order Theme

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We’re Number One!

To mask or not to mask, that is NOT the question.

It’s not up for debate.  You go outside, you wear the f-n mask.  If you don’t you get fined $10,000 the first time.  The second time you go to jail.

And yes, I’m a liberal.

I will get the hose!

Jail is the last place you want to be in a national pandemic but jail is where you will go for not adhering to the #1 medically approved way you can best protect yourself and others from contracting and spreading COVID-19. If you’ve ever watched any of the Law and Order shows (Note: And at this point in our lives, who hasn’t?) you’ve doubtless seen the one about the person who knowingly spreads some very contagious, possibly lethal disease and is charged for assault or even murder in court for callously using their bodily fluids as their weapon of choice.

So, life imitates art, right?  And we haven’t even started on death.

Then why don’t we?

You tell ’em, Olivia!

I live in California and we now have the dubious distinction of being #1 in the country for COVID-19 infections.  More than half a million and counting.  We were doing okay for a while but since businesses reopened in the last couple of months we’ve seen a sharp surge or spike or whatever you want to call it in cases.  

Our death rate (Note: Almost 9224 people so far) is not quite commensurate with other hot spots but health care in California is a bit better than it is in other states.  Still, we’re catching up (Note: 219 dead in the last 24 hours) and if this continues, well, watch your back, America!  We’re gonna contribute mightily to the almost 160,000 and counting Americans who have already perished, with no end in sight.

(Note: FYI, that is more Americans killed than in the Vietnam, War, Gulf War, Afghanistan War, Iraq War AND Korean War combined).

Get a nice haircut for your open casket

California has for decades been known as the place that nationwide trends originate.  This has been both good and bad.  Sadly, we gave you the Valley Girl but on the good side Silicon Valley did revolutionize the world.

On second thought, perhaps that wasn’t as good as we figured.

Never a good sign when Zuckerberg is looking more and more like a Batman villian

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 40 years and have heard all the jokes, the jealousies and the jerk-offs who put us down but secretly long to be or at least borrow from us.  They haven’t really bothered me because even though I’m a New Yorker through and through California won me over long ago.

It had a freedom, an openness and a sea of possibilities that I was never able to find or be comfortable with on the east coast or in my wonderful New York City.  To this day I love the east coast, New York especially, but it simply isn’t California.

Forget the beach, I’m talking Laurel Canyon, Joni, Carole, Tapestry on repeat

And yet these days that’s the last thing New York, or any state should try to be.

As my husband travelled in the car this Los Angeles afternoon, he drove through the somewhat busy streets of West Hollywood and spotted packed tables of people seated in sidewalk cafes, browsing store windows or simply walking and jogging all up and down the streets without masks.

At his count at least 50% of the people he saw had ZERO face coverings.

WHAT THE F-CK!!!!????

I don’t get why this is so hard.

But please, scream FREEDOM and wave your flag

I do get that this mask thing has become somewhat political and that many members of the Republican Party are choosing to go mask-less as a political statement against Democratic liberals.  Even the recent death of 2016 Republican presidential aspirant Herman Cain from COVID, which was diagnosed right after he attended that huge Trump rally mask-less in Tulsa, Oklahoma, hasn’t stopped them.

But West Hollywood ain’t Tulsa, you’ll just have to trust me on that.  You have as much chance of attending a Trump rally here as you do of buying a ticket to an AOC fundraiser in Tulsa’s BOK Center, the downtown stadium where Mr. Cain and thousands of others exchanged air, spittle and who knows what other types of bodily fluids back in June to kick off Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

So again, let’s pose the open question – WHAT. THE.  F-K.  GIVES?????

WHAT. IS. LOGIC

I say this pretty much sequestered in my house – high-risk group member that I am, and a very vocal one – and at the end of my rope.  I mean, I love my house, don’t get me wrong, and I know I’m A LOT more fortunate than most.  But even I don’t want to be here for the rest of my life.

However, I will be if the alternative means taking my life (and yours) in my hands because my fellow citizens are too dumb, selfish and/or vain to mask up.

My bet is that it could take the hot spot illnesses and underestimated deaths nationwide of thousands of teenagers once school begins to get people motivated.  But then again, the slaughter of an entire classroom of  6 and 7 year olds by a lone gunman with an assault weapon didn’t foster much of a change almost a decade ago to our nation’s gun laws, so perhaps I’m mistaken.

The Chair does not sugarcoat things!

We Americans are a really, really, really strange breed.  We elect our first African American president and then eight years later turn around and put a White Supremacist racist (Note: Can you be one without the other?) in the White House.

We could easily do a similar reverse turnaround on masks and COVID-19.  Or we could just let the virus spread further, mutate and mow a good 25-50% of our population down (Note: FYI, that’s 80-160 million people sick and/or dead) and make the decision for us.

Who knew SNL could predict the future? #idid

Count on me to be at home, watching it unfold from my safe house in California.  If you happen to pass by I’ll be the one screaming obscenities at the window at you if you’re showing too much nose, mouth or skin as I wonder who the f-ck we are and what the f-ck we have all become.

The Eagles – “Hotel California”