Culture

"Law & Order: SVU" Already Working on Trayvon Martin-Inspired Episode

Zimmerman trial to figure prominently in the season 15 premiere

Law & Order: SVU has never shied away from the cultural zeitgeist, often ripping stories from the headlines and using them as the base for some of their most popular episodes: an episode regarding a famous pop star's indecent relationship with young children was chided for largely being a Michael Jackson takedown; earlier this year, the show adapted the torrid saga of Rihanna and Chris Brown in an episode about two R&B stars and domestic abuse.

This seasons, however, (the show's 15th!) has topped its love of the water cooler by taking on two of the year's biggest stories in a single episode: the Paula Deen scandal and the George Zimmerman trial. Arrested Development's Jeffry Tambor stars as "a defense attorney representing a very high-profile celebrity woman chef who thought she was being pursued by a rapist and turned around it was a teenager. And she shot him,” said  Executive Producer Warren Leight in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “There’s a lot of stop and frisk elements to that as well,” he also added, in case the episode sounded a little too light for your taste.

Leight went on to mention that the episode will, in fact, tackle the larger questions that loom over these cases, namely whether self-defense is justifiable when framed through racial profiling. And if you think you're split about whether this episode has the potential to be illuminating and push the debate further, or just, you know, be the worst considering that both of these events are still so present and sensitive that the mere idea of fictionalizing them and throwing Ice Cube into the mix makes you want to shut your eyes and ask the world to just stop, don't worry—you're not alone.

"When the script was published, it became a litmus test for [the entire cast and crew]," Leigh said. "“It was really interesting to see people read that script and have different interpretations about who did what and whether or not they deserved prison for it. It was fascinating.”

Whether the episode is in bad taste or not is left to the eyes and ears of the beholder; regardless of your take, there is no denying that of all the "ripped from the headline" episodes, this is probably the fastest turnaround Law & Order has attempted. Yet in a time where last month's scandal feels a lightyear away, maybe an episode of Law & Order is the best way to keep all eyes on the cases that matter most. But any actor worth their salt would probably be quick to disagree, as it's considered a basic artistic principal (at least according to method actors everywhere) that it takes seven years to emotionally process an event before pulling from it in media. We're not quite there yet, but maybe five weeks will do?

 

Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.

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