love out loud: he’s just not that into SVU
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Sunday night family dinners. It’s more that since moving out of home, the ritual of going to my parents’ place for a meal felt like having something to prove. I felt obligated to jam in as much ‘quality time’ as a few hours would allow.
And then I got sick.
For two weeks following the last Boxing Day (I’d like to say this was because I enjoyed Christmas festivities a little too much, but my family doesn’t actually celebrate it), I was in bed with a chest infection, exacerbated by the fact that I didn’t know I had a chest infection. What I did know is that I’m a bit of a hypochondriac and am embarrassed by my eagerness to want a medical opinion about any and all ailments. So now, when something resembles a common cold, I tend to treat it as such, and then suffer for longer than is necessary.
But anyway, a few days into this, I decided I wanted to be nursed back to health and although my then-housemate had been doing a good job offering sympathy, she couldn’t really provide the around the clock care that I desperately wanted. So Dad came to pick me up and ferry me back to their place.
What ensued was many days of bliss, except for the ill health of course. I rediscovered how much fun it is to just hang out with my parents and do ‘real’ family things. Like fight over the television.
Invariably though, we did not fight when watching Law & Order: SVU. I don’t quite share their level of enthusiasm for all crime shows, but I do dig this particular franchise.
I was reliving this happier time over the weekend, when I spent Saturday night at my parents’ place (living the high life, my friends) so that I wouldn’t be home the following morning when my boyfriend’s band was using my place of residence for a video clip shoot (seemingly awesome, until you realise they needed a nondescript house and my bare walls and boring interior decoration perfectly fit the bill).
As my mum and I plowed through numerous episodes, I started to think about how the relationship statuses of the central detectives actually have quite a lot to say about gender issues.
For those who aren’t familiar, the show is mainly centred around two detectives, Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler. Unsurprisingly, the latter is married with four kids while the former is chronically single, although both are foremost in a relationship with their job.
This may have been an arbitrary decision on the part of the writers to have one character struggling to balance the demands of a family and those of a taxing job, while the other can’t seem to even get into a relationship because of their career, but I don’t think their ‘assignments’ to these roles are a coincidence.
Olivia talks about men being freaked out by what she does, and although Elliot’s wife does leave him for a period of time, it makes more sense that he would be able to continue his work in a rather trying job than would a woman who needs to take time off to have a baby, even if she’s not planning to be a stay at home parent.
This may be indicative of a gender bias by the creator, but it’s more likely that these characters were placed (or not placed, as it were) in relationships because this is more realistic than the reverse. Dick Wolf created a strong female character in Olivia, but her ongoing singledom is unfortunately telling of the fact that it remains more difficult for women than men to merge arduous careers with a happy home life.
And if you think that looking to a lowbrow crime show for indications of continuing gendered roles is stupid, perhaps it’s worth looking to the actors who portray these characters instead.
Granted, it is not possible for Christopher Meloni to contract gestational diabetes and gain 24kg in pregnancy weight, but it’s also a trial that only Mariska Hargitay has had to face and work through over the course of the series.
Then again, maybe it just shows that Hargitay is a rockstar.