I distinctly remember telling my friend Justin why I loved Law & Order. The show that often billed their episodes as “ripped from the headlines” found a way to humanize those same headlines that seemed to be banal statistics. A murder. A rape. A crime spree. By high school, those things felt like just natural facts of society. The Law & Order universe, especially SVU, tied me into a human reality that existed far, far outside of my sphere. Yes, it’s fictionalized entertainment, but as a conservative religious kid growing up in a small Midwestern town, the human realities discussed week after week, in their own way, broke away at the Othering I had been formed to project.
In college I met Sharon. I’m not sure what year we realized our shared SVU fandom, but it was real. Only a few years into our shared alumni status, we were back in our tiny college town for graduation. I don’t know for sure why I was there. I didn’t have family graduating that year, but there I was anyway. We somehow found a house with cable (I don’t know who owned the house) and lo and behold, USA had an SVU marathon airing. A quick trip to Rite Aid and we spent the next…eight, ten? hours drinking mimosas and watching New York City’s most dedicated detectives, Stabler and Benson, solve the heinous crimes.
I think that was around the time that Sharon was preparing to move to New York herself, to chase her lifelong dreams. That’s not my story to tell, but I remember how all of the fears and hopes and anxieties all coalesced as she made the move.
Kelli Giddish joined the SVU cast in season 13, playing a detective from the South who moves to NYC with the necessary baggage to be a new character in a seasoned show. It turns out, though, that she’s an incredible actor with a brilliant writing team developing her character. I’ve grown to love Detective Rollins.
Episode 16.10 of SVU, “Forgiving Rollins,” is one of the most powerful things I have ever watched. It’s a story, I’d contend, that you ought to watch. It’s heavy. It’s not pretty. Rollins has to speak some serious truth about herself over the course of it. But it’s so utterly important, so utterly human, so brutally honest. The weight and sadness and hope of speaking truth to power, of defending the victims. It’s seared into my memory. I rewatch it more than I should admit publicly.
Sharon ended up at a fundraiser dinner recently, only to find that the guest who signed in before she did was none other than Kelli Giddish. The SVU texts flew for a bit, of course, and I asked that if she did get a chance to talk to Kelli, she share how much I appreciate “Forgiving Rollins.”
Sharon’s a good friend. A great friend. The type of friend that’s proud to brag about you even when you’ve done nothing to deserve it. So she didn’t just bump into Kelli Giddish and tell her how much I appreciate her character. Sharon had to go and tell her about me.
The ugly cry I cried was for the goodness and the love and the watching-a-friend-achieve-all-of-her-dreams and for Detective Amanda Rollins and for Kelli Giddish and for Ileana and Shane and Cortez.
Like I told Justin 15 years ago. The humanity.