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A New Way to Look at Those Law & Order: SVU Marathons
November 15, 2013 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order, a novella by Carmen Maria Machado from the May/June issue of The American Reader.

“Nocturne”: The ghost of one of the murdered, misburied underage models begins to haunt Benson. She has bells for eyes, tiny brass ones dangling from the top of each socket, the hammer not quite touching the cheekbone. The ghost does not know her own name. She stands over Benson’s bed, the right bell tinkling faintly, and then the left, and then the right again. This happens for four nights in a row, at 2:07 a.m. Benson starts sleeping with a crucifix and pungent ropes of garlic because she does not understand the difference between vampires and murdered teenagers. Not yet.
posted by yasaman (23 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
In case anyone was as confused as I was. This is a series of fictional descriptions of Law and Order: SVU episodes, based solely on the title of that episode. There isn't a particular theme or approach to the descriptions. Likewise, very few, if any, of the fictional descriptions serve to parody any of the common tropes in the actual show.
I assume the humor is derived from the apparent fact that the author of the piece hasn't really seen many episode of the show, but has seen other shows that have plotlines with supernatural elements.
posted by mulligan at 2:50 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I always try to monetize my Netflix binges myself.
posted by The Whelk at 2:55 PM on November 15, 2013


There isn't a particular theme or approach to the descriptions. [...] the author of the piece hasn't really seen many episode of the show

I think you might want to read it again, perhaps more slowly.

The genre-mashup thing is fun on its own terms, but the best parts are the metafictional ones:

“The sixty-fifth story,” Henson whispers into her ear, “is about a world which watches you and me and everyone. Watches our suffering like it is a game. Can’t stop. Can’t tear themselves away.”
posted by RogerB at 2:57 PM on November 15, 2013


While I did not mind her SUV novella, I felt it was missing that Tutuola fella.
posted by stenseng at 3:01 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


a series of fictional descriptions

Thanks for this, I don't watch the show and thought this was a Kenneth Goldsmithesque conceptual poem made out of transcribed episode summaries
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:01 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


There isn't a particular theme or approach to the descriptions. Likewise, very few, if any, of the fictional descriptions serve to parody any of the common tropes in the actual show.
I assume the humor is derived from the apparent fact that the author of the piece hasn't really seen many episode of the show, but has seen other shows that have plotlines with supernatural elements.


I don't think this is necessarily meant to be humor or parody, but it is most certainly written with knowledge of the show. There is a kind of black humor to it, but I saw it more as a critique of the show's inherent grotesqueness and violence, and the monstrous world that the show taken in bulk represents.

Also, not sure if you read all the way through, but the descriptions do have a theme and a plot line of their own, they aren't disconnected from each other.
posted by yasaman at 3:12 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do yourself a favor and listen to comedian John Mulaney's Law and Order chunk.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:45 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I tried to read through them again, making an effort not to be obtuse but i really don't see how they relate to each other any more than that they may be "quirky", here are the first 3 from season six:
season 6

“Birthright”: Stabler’s daughters get into a fight over a bowl of soup. When Stabler gets home, the oldest daughter has an ice pack on her forehead and the youngest is kicking her feet above the tiled kitchen floor. Stabler goes into the bedroom, where his wife is lying on her back, staring at the ceiling. “They’re your daughters,” she says to Stabler. “Not mine.”

“Debt”: Benson and Stabler don’t play Monopoly anymore.

“Obscene”: Benson buys twice as much produce as normal, and doesn’t even wait for it to rot. She throws a ripe vegetable in every garbage can in a twenty-block radius. It feels good to spread it out like this, the wasting.
I could replace the character names with those from Breaking Bad or Full House and it would be the same.

My point isn't that this all content is horrible, just that it if you come in expecting something about Law and Order SVU, you will be disappointed. If instead you were expecting a clever filter applied to the show, then you might also be disappointed. But if you are come to this looking for disjoint, quirky descriptions, then you will probably enjoy this.
posted by mulligan at 3:49 PM on November 15, 2013


There are a lot of quirky descriptions, but I found two of the major plot lines of the descriptions (Stabler finding out about how someone raped his wife, and Benson and the ghosts) to be genuinely unsettling. Here are some of the descriptions about Stabler and his wife:
“Contact”: Stabler discovers that his wife believes she saw a UFO, back when she was in her early twenties. He lies awake all night, wondering if this explains the memory loss, the PTSD, the night terrors. His wife wakes up weeping and screaming, on cue.

“Taken”: “It was dark,” says Stabler’s wife. “I was walking home alone. It was raining. Well, not really raining. Spitting, I guess. Misting. It was misting and the light from the streetlamps was all pooled and golden, and thick, even, like it was a solid. And I was breathing deeply and it felt healthy, healthy and right to be walking through that night.” Stabler hears the drumming again. It shakes the water glass on the nightstand. Stabler’s wife doesn’t seem to notice.

“Paranoia”: “I am not suppressing anything!” Stabler’s wife yells at him. “Tell me about the night with the aliens,” says Stabler. He is trying to learn. He is trying to figure it out. “It was misty,” she says. “It was spitting.” He hears the banging again, the tone, sounding from somewhere in the house. “Yes, I know, I know,” Stabler says. “The light pooled around the lamp posts.” “There were so many iron gates. I walked past them and ran my fingers over their loops and whorls, and then my fingers smelled like metal.” “Yes,” said Stabler. “But then what?” But his wife is asleep.

“Monogamy”: Stabler wakes up one night to find his wife staring at the ceiling, tears soaking the pillow next to her head. “It was spitting,” she says. “My fingers smelled like metal. I was so scared.” For the first time, Stabler understands.

“Denial”: Stabler finds the police report for his wife’s rape. It’s so old that he has to call in a favor from a guy in the records department. The sound of the paper scraping against the thin manila envelope slows Stabler’s heart.

“Control”: “Why did you look it up?” Stabler’s wife asks. “Why? All I wanted was to bury it. I want it to be hidden. Why did you do it? Why?” She cries. She pummels her fists into a giant, overstuffed throw pillow. She begins to walk from one end of the room to the other, holding her arms so tightly to her torso that Stabler is reminded of a man who once came to the precinct, covered in blood. He held his arms like this, too, and when he let them drop, his wounded abdomen opened up and his stomach and intestines peeked out, like they were ready to be born.
posted by yasaman at 4:01 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is really good. I have seen many episodes of the show and this is very much about its subtext and its metatext (or whatever you call "the experience of watching the show")
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:01 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


this is very much about its subtext and its metatext (or whatever you call "the experience of watching the show")

Yes exactly. The thing that's getting misperceived as just quirky parodic zingers here may actually be the strange and unsettling collision between the safe comforting interlude of the one-off episodes and the creepy ongoing horror of the longer story arcs — the way the episodic format of the show seems to be fighting against some more troubling underlying story that is trying to peek out from behind the format. Which is something that's absolutely there in the actual TV show but has been dramatically/horrifically as well as comically heightened to good effect in this story.
posted by RogerB at 5:12 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


“Uncivilized”: They found the boy in Central Park, looking like no one had ever loved him. “His body was crawling with ants,” Stabler said. “Ants.” Two days later, they arrest his teacher, who as it turns out had loved him just fine.
This reminds me of Teju Cole's small fates.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:49 PM on November 15, 2013


This is pretty good.

All in all I'm generally not bothered by things in the world of arts, letters, & entertainment. I've enjoyed a few Aristocrats performances. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom is best enjoyed with some good chocolate. Fucked-up late 19th century works about general moral degeneracy including a good amount of diddling young boys, all good. SVU is obscene and I'll make people change the channel.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:34 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


“P.C.”: “It’s just that,” the guy says, pumping his head confidently, “my sense of humor is pretty subversive, you know? I, like, don’t submit to the P.C. brigade. I like to think of myself as a rebel.” For the first time in ages, Benson leaves her date. She’s desperate, but not that desperate.
yesssss
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:46 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"bell tinkling faintly"

Tintinnabulation
posted by panaceanot at 9:23 PM on November 15, 2013


Wow, this is really good. I like how it's often funny seen piece by piece (like the P.C. thing, or the Hooters case), but there's a much more unsettling thing going on underneath. It's creepy and fascinating, and really, really well done. Also, some of the one-off episode descriptions that don't connect to the main story are also really evocative and almost like tiny stories on their own, or at least the seeds of stories, like this one:
“Savant”: The boy turns out lists and lists of the missing, dating back to before his birth, chronologically by the date of their disappearances. He draws thick black lines through most of them, though not all. His mother doesn’t understand the names, or the lines, and burns the lists on the grill in their backyard.
It's very rare to see something that mixes creepy and weird with funny this well. You'd think it's kind of a gimmick to use the Law & Order episode titles and characters, but it just works.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:08 PM on November 15, 2013


David Schmader of The Stranger newspaper in Seattle has referred to the show as Law & Order: This Baby’s Been Raped!
posted by duffell at 4:29 AM on November 16, 2013


I was expecting something silly and fluffy, but it sucked me straight in. A marvellous mood piece, dark and insistent.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:50 AM on November 16, 2013


I'm enjoying Abler and Henson the most, though the whole thing is great. Thanks!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:53 AM on November 16, 2013


“Babes”: All of the Hooter’s waitresses get pregnant at once. No one will say why. “This is not really a case,” Benson says, exasperated.
posted by malapropist at 5:52 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The people are represented by two separate groups: the police who investigate crimes and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. For crimes that are especially heinous...

Heh heh heh heh, which rhymes with "anus" ... heh heh heh...

BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT"
posted by jonp72 at 11:07 AM on November 16, 2013


I liked this very much, more than I was expecting to. It reminded me of Kelly Link's writing.
posted by daisyk at 2:52 PM on November 17, 2013


Very nice storytelling.
posted by jsturgill at 8:34 AM on November 18, 2013


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