Sunday, April 15, 2007

A New Look at L&O

I wrote awhile back about why Law and Order is one of the most conservative shows on television. It still is. But I would be remiss if I didn’t eat a little crow and admit that Law and Order has been critical of conservative Christians twice this season, once on regular Law and Order and once on Law and Order SVU. I doubt these were coordinated efforts since the shows have different writing teams and different story meetings. But I could be wrong. They are both produced by Dick Wolf. The episodes in question still fit my theory that if you practice any kind of alternative lifestyle on L&O you are going to be either a victim, a murderer, or both. Law and Order is a very prudish franchise. I should also mention that both episodes treated Christians, in the end, with respect. But both shows did mock fundamentalist positions toward Gays, and treated our society’s exclusion of homosexuals as misguided and Christian persecution of homosexuals as evil. Good for them!

In the first SVU episode, a gay man who had been the secret lover of a born again Christian was murdered. That was pretty much the plot of the L&O episode too. In the first the young man had been active in a Christian haunted house called “Satan’s Hotel,” which included an act where a gay man literally burns in hell for his sexuality (SVU is always a bit more ridiculous than L&O). The L&O was one of those ripped from the headlines things, this one inspired by the downfall of Ted Haggard, the Colorado Springs evangelical and Bush confidant who admitted last year to using meth and soliciting gay male prostitutes. Part of the theme of the L&O episode was to paint their fictional church as a scam, a for profit business led by a hypocritical flim-flam man. ADA McCoy, as always, led the skepticism. In the end of both episodes the faith of the Christians involved was reaffirmed and in the case of the SVU episodes the family came to accept their son’s homosexuality. McCoy got some egg on his face when the killer proved to be more interested in continuing the mission of the church than of staying out of jail. But in both episodes the killer was a Christian zealot who believed that killing homosexuals is ok by God. Leviticus was quoted heavily.

Most Christians will see this as a blatant attack on their faith. It is certainly more liberal than a lot of other positions taken on Law and Order. I don’t think it was attacking Christians as much as it was building drama around plausible situations. We know that there is gay bashing and even gay murder carried out by people who believe that they are doing God’s will. But Christians often act as if pointing that out is attacking the faith in general and cry foul. And both episodes definitely took a stand against the persecution of gays. Christians will eroneously cry that the show was mocking their faith, and that they are the ones being persecuted. They always do, as though GLAD was out their with pitch forks, herding them toward the lions.

So is Law and Order now a liberal show? Hardly. Law and order are still bedrock conservative virtues, and that is what the show is still all about. It’s hard for a cop drama to be liberal (but not for a courtroom drama to be liberal, which is why L&O sometimes can lean the other way a bit). Plus they’ve got Fred Dalton Thompson on there making conservative speeches on every episode and apparently launching his Presidential campaign from the show. Hardly liberal. But they do take a liberal (New York style) position of gays. As a liberal New Yorker I can hardly complain.


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