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Law and Order: SVU on NBC
Prime-time television is
inundated with much more violent imagery than sexual content. Since the FCC by
law cannot regulate violence the way it does sexual or excretory content, shows
like CSI, 24, and Criminal Minds have virtually free rein
to showcase ever more graphic depictions of violence. So what happens when an
entire series is centered on sexual violence? In the case of the April 7th
episode of Law and Order: SVU (Tuesdays, 10:00 p.m. ET), the viewer
receives a double dose of extreme brutality and disturbing sexual perversion,
earning it the title of Worst TV Show of the Week.
The episode begins with an art dealer escorting a collector
to an artist’s loft, where they discover the female artist’s corpse on top of a
table. From afar, we see that she is naked and placed in a position that
suggests she had been hog-tied. Close-up shots of her wrists and ankles show
deep rope burns. A ghastly tight shot of her face depicts dead, bloodshot eyes
and rigid lips where the killer had glued them shut. Detectives Elliot Stabler
and Odafin “Fin” Tutuola examine the body and note the heinous blisters on the
victim’s back. Later the medical examiner, Dr. Warner, compares this new victim
with others previously found. Warner states that the time of death was
“approximately thirty-four hours prior to discovery. Cause of death was
asphyxia due to strangulation. Pre-mortem injuries include fractures of the
left zygomatic arch and the macsula.”
Stabler notes, “Same as April Silver - punched in the face
during a blitz attack.”
Fin asks, “Any other similarities?”
“They both had their mouths glued shut,” Warner explains,
“and both hyoids were broken, but without the restraints I can't conclude that
Casey Chapman was hogtied.”
Stabler contends, “What about the ligature marks on the
wrists, ankles, and neck?”
Warner pronounces, “Lividity proves that she was bound, not
how. This new victim wasn't sexually assaulted and he used more glue to seal
A territorial detective from
the major crimes unit, Victor Moran, exerts authority over the case. He
explains the killer’s m.o.: “His signature was the same on each victim. We
found them hogtied, all three mouths were glued shut. Bushwick and East New
York victims were both raped. He added sodomy with April Silver. As with Casey
Chapman, Queens, was not sexually assaulted, but they found glue in her ass.”
While he provides the graphic details, crime photos of the victims are shown.
They are all slim, attractive, young women, apparently naked with various
restraints tied around their necks.
Eventually, they identify a
suspect and discover bondage magazine covers hidden on the back of picture
frames. The women on the covers and the murder victims are all similarly
hogtied. Despite compelling evidence, including pubic hair found at the scene,
the suspect is released on a technicality. The adroit detectives, however,
isolate his next victim and catch him in the act. They storm into the victim’s
apartment and find him mounted over a naked woman who is hogtied. She screams
through glued lips as he tortures her.
This series treads a fine line
between exposing sexual violence and glorifying it, drifting ever-closer to the
“torture-porn” movie genre of films like Saw and Hostel – movies
that relish macabre sadism. Increasingly, these crime procedurals dwell less on
the victims and more on the elaborately-plotted, exceedingly perverse murders.
For extremely disturbing sexual violence Law and Order:
SVU has been named Worst TV Show of the Week.
Parents Television Council,
Clean Up TV Now, Because our children are watching, The
nation's most influential advocacy organization, Protecting
children against sex, violence and profanity in
entertainment, Parents Television Council Seal of Approval,
and Family Guide to Prime Time Television
are trademarks of the Parents Television Council.