Highly Anticipated Law & Order: SVU Episode Proves More Problematic Than Inclusive

March 4, 2010
Last night, NBC aired an episode of Law & Order: SVU which featured LGBT ally Kathy Griffin playing a lesbian activist. Many in the LGBT community were understandably excited about the episode, hoping for a fair, accurate and inclusive hour of television. Unfortunately, that was not the case. In the episode entitled "P.C.," Griffin plays Babs Duffy, a lesbian activist pressuring the Special Victims Unit to step up their investigation of the rape and murder of a lesbian woman, as well as ongoing threats to other local lesbians. As Detectives Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Benson (Mariska Hargitay) unravel the case, they discover a subculture of "aggressives:" lesbians with a hyper-masculinized presentation. Though the detectives initially suspect one of the "aggressives," the murderer turns out to be a local man who simply can't stand being surrounded by lesbians when he cannot find a woman for himself.

Kathy Griffin (l.) guest starred as a lesbian activist on Law & Order: SVU, starring Mariska Hargitay (r.)

As offensive as the unoriginal victim and man-hating lesbian stereotypes were, the episode's true problem lay in the bait and switch it pulled on its LGBT viewers. Capitalizing on Harigtay's large lesbian fanbase as well as Griffin's popularity in the LGBT community, NBC released a preview clip in the days before the airing that showed Griffin's character kissing Det. Benson. However, when the episode aired last night, Duffy only attempts to kiss Benson, who refuses her advance. As Benson exits, she tells her female colleague "if I were you, I'd stay outside," where she would be safe from the predatory lesbian. Later when it’s revealed that Duffy has a male lover, she is forced to admit she’s bisexual at an activist rally, leading her followers to label her a traitor. In her final scenes, Babs kisses Meloni’s Det. Stabler, despite not being able to kiss Det. Benson. Amongst crime procedurals, Law & Order: SVU typically ranks among the best in terms of LGBT-inclusive episodes, having received three previous GLAAD Media Award nominations. However, "P.C." proved to be a tremendous missed opportunity. The storyline attempted to tackle real life issues around hate crimes against lesbians, but by discrediting the Babs Duffy character, her message was also discredited. Instead, she became just another stereotype: the confused, sex-crazed bisexual. NBC received a failing grade in GLAAD's Network Responsibility Index last summer for its lack of quality LGBT representation. Though the several new shows have helped the network make some progress, this episode of Law & Order: SVU marks a step backward for NBC. GLAAD will be reaching out to NBC to express our concerns, as well as the concerns that have been voiced to us by community members. We also urge you to reach out to NBC and ask that they not insult their LGBT viewers by luring them in with the promise of an episode that ultimately proves insulting.