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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Good Luck Shane

Saturday Night Live announced earlier this week it signed a comedian named Shane Gillis for its upcoming season and there’s already a lot of backlash.

Like, a lot.

See, Shane’s primary shtick is playing the aggrieved, tough-talking, straight white guy who tells it like it is under the guise of comedy.  Though what this consists mainly of is him hurling politically incorrect insults at Asians, women, LBTQ people, Muslims and other straight men he thinks are too soft because they’re either too depressed or too PC-acting for his tastes.

When do the jokes start?

Though I’ve never seen Shane live I’ve listened to about an hour of his comedy from various clips and podcasts (Note: Some of which he tried to scrub from the Internet but have since resurfaced.  Let that be a lesson to all of us).

Suffice it to say, they’re peppered with bon mots like:

White chicks are literally the bottom of the comedy chain,

Judd Apatow and Chris Gethard are f-cking gayer than ISIS and white faggot comics and,

Heavily accented imitations of chinks in Chinatown (Note: Not since Mickey Rooney in Breakfast and Tiffany’s) as well as numerous references to chink food.

Yup, Shane’s clearly got a comic persona.

Oh I see, he’s an asshole.

But he doesn’t present as a caricature of machismo like, say, Andrew Dice Clay or in the category of smarmy walking/talking radio id like Howard Stern did back in his shock jock days.

Instead, Shane simply comes across as, well, one of the boys.  The type of guy that hangs out at comedy clubs and bars, stays for drinks afterwards and has opinions, lots of opinions.

This is almost too polite

His delivery isn’t unusually exaggerated nor does it feel drunk or even particularly ranting.   Rather, he seems to mean every single thing he is saying, and not in an Andy Kaufman-esque, are you putting me on way.

It makes one wonder, what is the stuff he’s choosing not to say and would I be safe if a guy like that became popular and got in the White House?

Oh, oops.

but also ughhhhh

Certainly, don’t take my word for any of this.  You can listen here to any number of Shane clips here or here and judge for yourself.

The question now is, what are we (and NBC) to do with our fellow traveler Shane?

Object too strenuously to him and we’re accused of being the freedom-hating censors that we claim to loathe and resent.   We can’t take a joke and we’re humorless, unless of course the joke is on anybody but us.

Wait, I’ll get my coat

Yet if we simply stay quiet and let the free market dictate Shane’s fate we are denying ourselves our first amendment right to speak up and out about that which we are aggrieved by.  And history shows that for those of us who are NOT in the straight white male majority no good can come of that (or us).  Reverting to silence and behaving is how our nightmare started to begin with.

So, what’s a double minority like the Chair to do?

What’s any minority to do?

Heck, what are the straight white guys who DO NOT share Shane’s aggrieved view of the world, nor think it’s particularly funny, to do other than think to themselves that these days THEY just might be the most aggrieved minority of us all because they can’t complain about anything to anyone out loud anymore and NOT be called on the carpet by EVERYONE except Shane, et al, for it?

Nope, Chairy, not getting me to feel bad for this.

Well after some thought I, for one, think we should just let Shane be Shane on NBC’s Saturday Night Live and see what happens to him in our 2019 social media infested world.

Allow him to stew for a while in the town square of Twitter.  Give him and the SNL writing team time to work up his first couple of mini-appearances on NBC late night and see if any of those routines get more hits than the racist ones already existing on YouTube.

Then…let’s see if, in turn, he gets invited to the White House.  Or, better yet winds up there some years later by some fluke of electoral fiat via social media platform performance.

Um.. wait… what? #StanKenan4ever

What, it’s happened before to the unlikeliest of NBC stars?

But this time we’ll be ready.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Right now Shane is merely a rookie member of the group formerly known as The Not Ready For Prime Time Players.  It takes at least a full season to be bumped up to first string and, well, who knows where we’ll all be by then.

Hopefully, funnier.

Frank Sinatra – “High Hopes”

 

UPDATE!! Welp, Shane was fired... so I guess… 

NEVERMIND!