In the Criminal Justice System, Sexually Based Offenses Are Considered Especially Sexy. In New York City, the Sexy detectives who investigate these sexy felonies are part of a sexy elite squad known as the Sexy Victims Unit. These are their sexy stories:
That version of the opening words of Law & Order SVU comes into my mind every time that monotone introduction signals that I will be spending somewhere between 42 minutes and 9 hours watching SVU. That version seems more accurate. It’s silly and absurd (and sexy), and it gets at the icky and bombastic preposterousness that is congealed in every episode like semen on a crime scene. Law & Order SVU is that rare show that manages to be both preachy and prurient.
The thing about SVU is that it’s essentially masturbatory. The subject matter is always sensationalist. When the plotline isn’t a tittilating account of a rich girl gone bad, it’s a revenge fantasy enacted against the last acceptable whipping boy- the pedophile. That’s what the show is if you take it seriously, which a decreasing number of people do. If you see it as the madcap, screwball comedy it truly is it’s no less masturbatory. I delight in seeing just how silly the dialogue will get. I thrill as the writers push the limits of taste and credulity to the breaking point. But mostly I just laugh at the sexy sexiness of it all. It’s like Showgirls, but it lasts 11 seasons.
Whether you take the show seriously or not, most people find that at some point they’ve been sucked into an orgy of SVU. Streaming Netflix only makes it worse. You’re just a button push away from some more lurid details being bandied about matter-of-factly, more intense scenes of Chris Meloni pulling people out of chairs in their unnecessarily poorly lit and dinghy interview room.
What follows is an attempt to redeem SVU from its status as a solitary indulgence and make it a social event. This is Law & Order SVU game:
In the television watching experience Law and Order SVU is considered especially lonely. The group you are now in is playing a game that changes that, known as Law & Order Sexy Victims Unit Trope Spotting Extravaganza. These are the rules. CHUNG-CHUNG!
To play the game, you need the following: people, an adequate supply of your preferred social lubricant, a player willing to act as the scorekeeper, and access to the melodramatic one word title of the Law & Order SVU episode you choose to watch.
At the beginning of the game, the scorekeeper will announce the one-word title of the episode. Since almost nobody knows what the episode titles are, it won’t matter if any of the players have seen the episode. The titles are vague enough that you won’t remember which of the various SVU plotlines that have become mashed together in your head are which.
Before the episode is played, each player must pick which of the following list of ridiculous, recurring SVU tropes will be in the episode. Each trope has a point value. The ones that occur more rarely are worth more points than the really common ones. But be careful! If you choose a trope that doesn’t happen, that point value is deducted from your total. The player with the most points when the “Executive Producer Dick Wolf” screen comes on wins.
THE LAW & ORDER SVU RIDICULOUS RECURRING TROPE LIST
1. “We need a bus!” (5 Points). People are always getting stabbed and shot in front of police officers on SVU. This can play out two ways. If someone is shot or stabbed all the sudden and the cops yell the magic words that gets you the requisite 5 points. When it happens in or around court that gets another 2 for a total of (7 Points)If they find someone who has, by shocking coincidence been mortally wounded just moments before the cops arrive at the scene, and they yell the magic words, that’s an extra 2 points for a total of (7 points).
2.Did you know that 2/3 of the statistics cited walking in and out of the Squad Room sound like they were pulled from Wikipedia? Whenever someone cites a statistic or factoid. (5 Points) This happens shockingly frequently. If it is ME Warner, it’s only worth 2 points, because she’s the biggest culprit. If it is a statistic or factoid the person has no business knowing, like Stabler saying how much uncut diamonds go for on the black market, it’s worth (+2 Bonus)
3. This is above your paygrade, detectives.A Federal Agency interferes with an SVU investigation (6 points). It’s shocking how many terrorist organizations the Sex Crime Unit encounters. If, in the course of one of these episodes Munch mentions the Patriot Act, it’s worth (+2 Bonus points). If anyone else does, it’s (+3 Bonus points). If the federal agents say it involves “national security” it’s worth a (+3 Bonus points). If anyone says “sandbagged”, “stonewalled” or “out of the loop” it’s a (+1 Bonus Points). If the federal agency tag-teams the investigation, (+1 Bonus Points). If they have sexual tension with Olivia, (+4 Bonus Points)
4. Rat Squad! (9 point) Because the SVU Detectives are extremely unprofessional and preposterously unethical, IAB is often brought in. If that happens, it’s worth 9 points. If Elliot or Ice-Trefers to them as the “rat squad” it’s worth (+2 Bonus points) even in an episode that doesn’t involve Internal Affairs specifically. If anyone else says “rat squad” for any reason, (+3 Bonus Points).
5. We’ve Got a Runner! (8 Points) If the detectives approach someone in the course of an investigation and the person runs instantaneously, that’s worth 8. If they push a bystander out of the way, (+3 Bonus Points). If they tip trash or furniture over to aid their flight, (+2 Bonus Points).
6. Those detectives are so dedicated! Whenever someone says “Go home, get some sleep” (5 Points).
7. No cop show has ever had a crotchety Captain! Whenever Cragen says “(So-and-so)- my office. Now.” (4 Points).
8. My Client Isn’t Saying Another Word! Whenever an interrogation is interrupted by the arrival of the suspect’s attorney (4 Points). If the lawyer says “This interview is over detective” (+1 Bonus Points). If the lawyer says “unless you plan on charging my client…”(+1 Bonus Points) if the attorney identifies themselves as though no one knows who they are (+4 Bonus Points). If anyone says “lawyer up” (+1 Bonus Points).
9.What Is The Meaning Of This! Whenever the detectives arrest someone when they’re in the middle of something (teaching a class, at a meeting, examining a patient) (8 Points). If there’s incredulous expressions exchanged between the surprised people at the arrest (+2 Bonus Points). If the arrest takes place while the suspect is actually engaging the media on the air (+5 Bonus Points).
10. “One More Word Out Of You And I Charge You With Conetmpt, Mr/Mrs. So-and-So!” If a Judge utters those words, it’s worth (6 Points)Whenever the Judge impotently bangs the Gavel during a court commotion (+4 Points). If the Judge tells the Defense attorney to “control their client” (7 Points). If the Judge tells someone to be quiet, then lets them have their monologue anyway, (10 Points).
11. The Rape Kit Tested Positive..For Sex! Whenever a fluid or object is said to have been “in” the victim (4 points).
12. Eliot Stabler reads the DNA Results:….You ARE the Father !Anytime someone discovers they had a family member they didn’t know about (10 Points)
13. That place is a fleabag flophouse place! Anytime they need to go to the Lydia Hotel (4 points)
14. “I was just in a meeting with brass and it was a real *******fuck!” Anytime someone says “cluster” instead of “clusterfuck” (40 points).
15. This guy was a total perv! Check THIS out! Anytime the detectives read aloud from a diary of a victim or perp (10 points). If the cast each reads different parts to each other (+15 Bonus Points)
16. “Never Forget- Never Stop Mentioning!” Whenever someone says “when the towers fell” instead of 9/11 or some other less melodramatic substitute. (10 Points).
17. “If that’s it Detectives, I have some things to sign perfunctorily and hand off to underlings while I simultaneously walk around looking frazzled.” If the police question someone and they continue working while answering the cops questions (2 points). If the Detectives walk off without giving their card or saying any thing (+1 Bonus Points).
18. “Free the Celebrity Making Cameo Appearance!” Whenever an activist wears the T-shirt for their cause over their regular clothes instead of just wearing the shirt (10 points)
20. “In a-Russia ze goils need ze money, so I bringa zem heyah” Any fake accent from anyone anywhere for any reason (5 points).
21. “Mother loved fresh flowers like the ones found near the body.”Whenever someone refers to their mother as just “mother” (10 points). (+2 Bonus points) if they’re rich.
22. “It’s a Law & Order SVU you’ll never forget! It has a B-List Celebrity in it!”Any celebrity cameo, (10 points). If it’s playing against type, (+2 Bonus points).
23. Eliot is shirtless! I repeat: Shirtless! (9 points). If you see Jesus tattoo (+3 Bonus Points).
24. Psst…I’ve been infiltrating this exotic bird smuggling ring for 34.3 months…Whenever they are arresting someone and they find out the persons undercover (15 points). If they are told to “make it look good so my cover’s not blown” and they arrest them more melodramatically (+5 Bonus points) If someone says they’re undercover and the cops say “Oh yeah? What’s the color of the day?” (+15 Bonus points)
25. “Call me. Anytime. I say that to anyone who says they’ve been attacked and now I never sleep.” Whenever Olivia answers the phone in bed (15 points).
26. “Kathleen is drunk! And getting a tattoo! And she’s sexually active with a biker!” Anytime Stabler’s family appears (20 points).
27. “I think you might be taking this too personally because you were in astronaut school once, detective.” Anytime Cragen says he’ll take someone off because they’re “too close” (20points). if he then relents and lets them stay on the case anyway (+1 Bonus Point)
28. “Look how he posed the victims. It’s like he’s telling us he was locked in a closet by his mother who was obsessed with Humphrey Bogart movies.” Anytime they flash black and white pictures of the crime scene and/or corpse across the screen (20 Points)
29. “Your Victim was raped in the face, Detectives- and whoever did it was left-handed.” Anytime they do a close up of the corpse during the ME interview. Bonus if there is a gross-out interaction between the detectives and the body (20 Points, +4 Bonus)
30. “ The internet. Now it’s nothing but child porn, death metal fansites, and Neo-Nazism.” Whenever they look at the internet, (15 points). (+5 Bonus) if it’s an extremist website, +(7 if it’s an escort service or porn site).
31. “The victim is over at a hospital with an implausibly combined religious and secular name.” Anytime the detectives have to go to Mercy General Hospital, it’s 5 points. If the victim absconds from the hospital to the amazement of the nurses (+2 Bonus Points).
32. “But Wait! There’s more semen I didn’t tell you about!” The writers use this trick a lot. During the show-and-tell at the morgue the ME will present the evidence and leave the cops at a dead end. Then they say “I’m not finished” or somesuch, and they’ll give the cops the piece of evidence they need (4 points). If the forensic evidence narrows down the suspects of crime scene geographically in a way that seems almost too good to be true (e.g, the pollen on the victim’s genitals comes from a flower that only grows along the Jersey Turnpike) (+10 Bonus)
The Walk-and-Talk is an SVU staple. Whenever the cast walks around and talks business simultaneously (5 Points). When a dialogue is interrupted with the answer to a question from someone who just walked in the room (5 Points).
33. She always dreamed of one day moving to New York and getting raped. Lots of SVU episodes feature Caucasian blonde girls from wholesome families in Midwestern towns winding up dead in New York. If this happens (15 Points). If the girl was secretly a hooker or stripper (+2 Bonus Points). If the girl developed a drug habit (+2 Bonus Points) If the girl maintained her Midwestern Purity and was in the wrong place at the wrong time (+10 Bonus Points) If a family member or friend from home is in the city trying to rescue them (+8 Bonus Points).
34. These characters are really vivid! Each character has a schtick. They are all worth points. Every time Munch makes a joke about being Jewish, bonus points if he uses the phrase “my people” (5,+2). Munch is a conspiracy nut! How wacky! (+5 points whenever that comes up)Every time Ice-T makes a reference to the Ghetto, or his upbringing therein, or mentions his 10 years in Brooklyn Narcotics (5 Points). Ice-T and Richard Belzer have a really hallow, unconvincing give-and-take. Whenever they rib each other (10 Points). Craigan’s hard exterior is softened by his battle with alcoholism. When he mentions his time in AA or being “on the bottle” (10 Points).
Olivia really cares about the victims. She won’t let there be anymore victims because her mother was a victim and she stands up for victims because she’ll never let someone be victimized the same way. That’s why she’s on the special victims unit. Everytime Olivia says “victim” (+5 Points). Elliot is brooding and intense. This makes him do all kinds of tortured hero things. Like: Punching a wall (10 Points), grabbing a perp out of his chair (5 points), or grabs him by the collar (2 Points), Every time he leaves in a huff (5 Points), every time he yells “does that type of thing get you off?” (2 Points).
The cast’s banter is most evident when they’re in front of the silly meetings in the Squad Room in front of the photo arrays and maps that get higher tech each season. Luckily, they often happen right after commercial breaks! If there’s a map show and tell (5 Points), if there’s a chart with arrows between the characters (5 Points) if they Cragen gives out assignments right after the meeting (2 Points).
35. Put him in the Box! Interrogations usually involve some of the most recognizable tropes. If the cops threaten a suspect with the prospect of being raped in prison (10 Points) If they use the phrases “pretty” or “cherry” (+5 Bonus points). If a chair is thrown (5 Points), if pictures of the victim are presented to the suspect (5 Points). If the cops let other people who they want to convince of something listen in on an interview to shock them or shatter their illusions (5 Points). If a suspect yells at the one way mirror (15 Points). If the one-way mirror is shattered (15 Points).
36. “How about we get the department of something or other in here to do this or that ? That’ll really put a damper on your such-and-such.” This trope is a close cousin of people being super busy in a New Yorky way when the Detectives are canvassing. For some reason, people think that the city beauracracy is at the command of Detectives from Manhattan Special Victims Unit. Whenever someone hesitates because of “confidentiality” or “doctor-patient privelege” the Detectives threaten to have some city agency perform an audit or arbitrarily search their business or something. Usually it’s the Dept. of Health.
Whenever they use this trope, that’s (5 Points). If someone gets indignant, like a Priest who’s asked about a Confession always does, that’s (10 Points)
The City that stays up watching SVU never sleeps! I’m from NYC, and a lot of the time I’m watching the show I’m identifying locations. If you can successfully identify the location a scene is being shot, that’s (40 Points). Obviously, this only counts for locations that are meant to stand in as other ones (e.g, when they use a churchyard from downtown to pass as a quad in Hudson University, etc.). If they’re on the steps of Manhattan Criminal Court that doesn’t count.
TWIIIST!!! Whoever yells TWIIIST! first when one happens gets an extra (40 points) Whoever names the actual perpetrator successfully first gets (20 points), and whoever successfully names the current events issue or headline the story is ripped from first gets (40 points).
Whoever yells “Dick Wolf!” first before the final title card gets another (20 points)
These rules are undergoing constant revision and updating. I strongly encourage you to submit other tropes for consideration in your comments, and, soon, we will have an SVU Party Game that will be especially heinous.
Cast Charicature by the very, very funny Aaron Aryanpur