Criminal Intent: Keeping it in the Class (and Race and Gender)

The latest episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent took on the Duke Lacrosse team rape case. When NBC was producing the show, this would have been a tricky premise for them to carry off (seeing as the real life case resembled a bad episode of of L&O). With the USA Network team, it proved to be a disaster.

This episode contained:

  • A working class American young woman of Dominican descent who’s been raped, supposedly by Ivy League college football players. Oh, and she’s a stripper.
  • A young Korean-American woman, a friend of the raped woman who’s murdered after she gets cold feet about testifying to back up her friend.
  • One of the accused football players, a working class young man whose mother is white and whose father is African-American.
  • The white male assistant district attorney (middle or upper class?) who’s prosecuting the case in hopes of becoming the next district attorney.
  • The ADA’s wife, also white and middle to upper class and very ambitious – well, vicariously ambitious. She wants her husband to go far in life, so she can ride along.

Guess who committed the crimes? If you read this article, you can probably already guess who didn’t. The rape of the hispanic woman was committed not by the football players but by her ex-boyfriend (who we must assume is from her class and race, since that’s the default in TV when no mention is made to the contrary). The murder of the Korean-American woman was committed by the working class white mother of the accused boy – the one who’s committed race treason by marrying an African-American man. No privileged people got their hands dirty in the making of this episode.

So here we have a woman of color whose longest scene is the one where she’s the corpse at the bottom of the stairs. Here we have another one of those horrible women who lie about rape (I wonder how much this perpetuates the myth that there are more innocent men in jail for rape than there are actual rapes in the world). Here we have a chance to show a bi-racial family getting along just fine in the world, but it turns out the mom’s got no problem killing a woman she’s told is going to “bury” her son by backing up the (false) rape accusation on the stand.

And that brings us to the ADA’s wife, the one who wants her husband to go far in life so she can be married to someone important (she’s on her third husband, actually, the first two not having gone far enough to satisfy her). If this isn’t repulsive enough, she’s also decided this case against the football players is the one that’s going to carry her husband to the top. She’s the one who, upon learning the Korean-American woman isn’t going to testify because the rape story isn’t true, winds up the working class white woman so she’ll go kill her. Why a dead witness helps the case, I’m not sure. The show is so poorly written now, the plotholes have started collapsing in on themselves and sucking everything around them into a parallel universe.

The point is: our anti-rape crusader turns out to be Lady MacBeth on a rampage. Our rape victim turns out to be a big fat liar, even though they usually twist the ending when they’re ripping off a real life case, which in this case would’ve meant the football players actually being proven to have committed the rape. And the woman who married a man who wasn’t “her kind” is a murderer.

This is one show where the writers’ strike may not make a difference. I suspect turning the actors loose to improvise a story might actually turn out more interesting.

Comments

  1. says

    That used to be the original L&O’s claim to fame: “This week, ripped from the headlines…” Ugh, if I never hear that phrase again, that’d be sweet.

    But generally, they twist the ending as well as adding/changing elements to make it unpredictable for those familiar with the real life story. In this one, they added/changed elements, but they didn’t twist the “ending” in which the rape charges ended up being dismissed as bogus. They had the same thing happen on the show.

    The L&O franchise is responsible for more storylines involving false rape allegations than anything I’ve ever watched.

  2. says

    Oh, and let’s not forget: the white ADA who realizes how much privilege he has and wants to do something about it is a clueless, wishy-washy hypocrite who doesn’t know what goes on in his own office. And he’s whipped. Just like all liberal “men.”

    Ah, that whole episode just ticked me off so much.

  3. says

    But generally, they twist the ending as well as adding/changing elements to make it unpredictable for those familiar with the real life story.

    The changes/additions often end up making some pretty unsubtle commentary on the nature of the world as it is or as it should be. I remember specifically being *extremely* upset at their handling of the Paul Bernardo/Karla Homolka trials, because they made the outcome totally perfect and complication/nuance free, which ultimately oversimplified a case that had a huge personal impact on a lot of people around here. That episode single-handedly convinced me that L&O had been taken over by people who had absolutely no interest in any discussion that makes the world seem anything other than black-and-white.

    So the idea that they would status-quo up the circumstances surrounding the Duke rape case doesn’t really surprise me all that much.

  4. Gina says

    Given that Law & Order is ripped from the headlines, I’m not sure why you think the outcome of the show should have been different. Say Crystal Mangum had not lied and DNA evidence proved conclusively that she had been raped by the lacrosse players. Law & Order decides to do an episode based on the case but changes the outcome to show that she had been lying about the rape. Would you think that’s ok? Something tells me you wouldn’t.

  5. says

    Gina, you’re trolling. I explained how the ripped from the headlines crap fits, and why this was odd, etc. We discussed it in comments.

    You’re intentionally misconstruing people’s points to start a fight. We don’t tolerate that crap here.

  6. says

    Given that Law & Order is ripped from the headlines, I’m not sure why you think the outcome of the show should have been different.

    Betacandy addressed this, and I agree with her above comment, but seriously? The episode includes a whole series of elements that weren’t connected to the Duke lacrosse case, including the murder. So pretending that the episode is this completely unbiased documentary portrayal of real events (if that were even possible) is extremely disingenuous.

  7. Gina says

    Gina, you’re trolling. I explained how the ripped from the headlines crap fits, and why this was odd, etc. We discussed it in comments.

    You’re intentionally misconstruing people’s points to start a fight. We don’t tolerate that crap here.

    I know that the modus operandi here is to accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being a troll. I knew that would be your response before I even posted my comment.

    The problem here is that you think being falsely accused of rape isn’t a big deal. Those three men were crucified on a national stage. Their lives will never, ever be the same. To have had this episode play the story in any other way would have been yet another injustice.

  8. says

    Gina, you didn’t disagree. You tried to twist my observation on how L&O normally pulls its stories from the news into my preference for how all stories should end. As I stated above, L&O has a HUGE percentage of “false rape allegation” stories compared to its overall amount of actual rape stories.

    You have absolutely no right nor basis to accuse anyone of thinking false rape accusations aren’t a big deal and I won’t dignify that with a response.

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