One of Law & Order’s enduring characters had to go in order for the show to change.
Amanda Rollins, played by Kelli Giddish, pushed the boundaries of the SVU ethos of “standing up for victims.”
Both fictional and actual law enforcement have recently faced a reckoning, albeit a perplexing one. Following the death of George Floyd and the revival of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, many people questioned whether cop programmes would continue. Craig Gore, the showrunner of Law & Order: Organized Crime, was fired after making divisive remarks on Facebook regarding the 2020 demonstrations (the show has since had five showrunners across its three-season tenure). However, given that the first season of Law & Order was revived last year and that Chicago P.D., a sibling property, is still going strong, it appears that police dramas are intensifying.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit actress Kelli Giddish’s resignation was publicised before to the 24th season premiere of SVU on Thursday, suggesting that she may have been a victim of Law & Order’s restructuring. Cop shows no longer function in a politically neutral environment. But Giddish’s Detective Amanda Rollins and her history of victim blaming and slut shaming won’t be missed by this writer, and her departure demonstrates just how far the Law & Order world still has to go.
This is a celebration of the character she plays rather than actress Kelli Giddish’s departure from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which was not of her choosing and was cited by the show’s new showrunner David Graziano as just one of the “complex” financial and creative decisions that drive the show. Following the departure of Chris Meloni’s equally troublesome Detective Elliot Stabler for the show’s thirteenth season, Amanda Rollins of Giddish joined the elite team of SVU (who is now back in this role in Organized Crime, as well as plenty of cameos in the spinoff that made him famous). She therefore rapidly (and frequently) came to represent the limitations of police dramas in terms of actually serving and protecting their communities. If her support of an Ann Coulter-like political pundit in the season 19 episode “Info Wars” is any clue, she is critical, reproachful, and perhaps more conservative than we realise.
In the latter seasons, we learn that Rollins was sexually assaulted in Atlanta by her old commander, who also rapes a deputy in the episode “Forgiving Rollins” from season 16. Rollins dismissively states, “She’ll get over it,” obviously projecting her own suffering onto this survivor since that’s what she had to do. It’s a reaction that flew in the face of how SVU was being received at the time, as kind of a justice wish fulfillment for survivors who hoped their assaults were treated with as much care as the dedicated detectives who investigated these vicious felonies every week on NBC, but especially Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), the patron saint of rape avengers.
When contrasted to Benson, it was difficult to forgive Rollins after that, despite all the baggage we learn about her, notably in regards to her annoying sister Kim, who is expertly portrayed by Lindsay Pulsipher. Rollins should be more sympathetic and relatable because of his dysfunctional relatives. In spite of this, her story is consistently poorly written, allowing for the least kind interpretation of her character, which hinders her from developing. Her superiority complex stems from the fact that she appears to have overcome her dysfunctional family while consistently regressing.
Even though we feel sympathy for Rollins and can comprehend why she occasionally reacts inexplicably to survivors who she perceives as acting improperly, Rollins does not carry out her duties with the same sympathy. She was held prisoner as the result of a half-hearted storyline that involved her going to treatment to deal with her abusive upbringing (and that’s it). The season 19 episode “Service,” in which Rollins wonders why SVU “give[s] a damn” about sex workers who have been abused, is the one that absolutely turned me off to the character. It is sickening that a detective tasked with finding rapists would show such contempt for a group of people who, according to the Urban Justice Center, have a 45% to 75% chance of encountering sexual violence at work.
And Rollins stands in for the uphill war that SVU and its contemporaries are currently miserably waging there. The “ripped from the headlines” structure of the programme sometimes prevents SVU from treating these newsworthy cases with the delicacy they require (which is a problem with the true-crime genre in general). However, many will argue that the harm the series has done to the view of policing over the course of two decades cannot be undone in a few of months. SVU had the opportunity to modify how it represented policing in late 2020 with the return of season 22. As it was, the first episode of season 22 focused on white woman Amy Cooper calling the police on a Black birdwatcher named Christian Cooper (who is not related to her) in Central Park’s the Ramble on the same day that George Floyd was killed. It made no attempt to analyse the racial reckoning of that summer with the same care that made fans of the show fall in love with it. With SVU tackling the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp case in the forthcoming 24th season and with Roe v. Wade being overturned earlier this year, the programme is probably going to incorporate more plots that are directly taken from the news into its structure.
Detective Rollins is merely one aspect of a larger issue with cop shows and law enforcement in general; she is not the only issue with SVU. She was shielded from ever having to experience growing up and making mistakes. Although getting rid of her won’t address every issue with Law & Order, it’s at least a positive step.