Sunday, October 2, 2011

DSK in Law and Order - when Reality is Better than Fiction

American shows have a unique way of using fiction as a platform to discuss current events and national issues.

Last week, Law and Order SVU kicked off its new season with an episode directly inspired by the Strauss-Khan case, something you'd never see in France.
In the show, DSK is an Italian diplomat accused of raping a Sundanese hotel maid in NYC and arrested just before his plane takes off. The writers did not use their imagination very hard - the man is deemed to be Italy's next prime minister and the head of "the Global Economic Trust" and it is hard to believe them when they claim that they had to re-write about it. Overall, it seemed to me that the writing was pretty bad. The characters were a bit too caricatural and it tried to mimic reality too much and without the usual subtleness and ambiguities of other episodes.

Look at the initial scene :

In case the audience might not get it, one of the characters is heard saying "Another DSK case!". The writers of the show offer little criticism of the perp walk, as one the detectives (played by Ice-T) parades the accused in front of the journalists, telling him "Freedom of the press, baby!".
As the story develops, it turns out there are also concerns about the victim's credibility as she lied about her past and some newspaper imply she may be in for the money. But despite her lying, the main detective character in the show, Olivia Benson, still believes she was raped anyway, and she undoubtedly is who the audience will likely believe.

This is what's interesting about treating current events: you have to choose a perspective without the distance of time, and clearly in this case, the alleged rapist character is not only not very likeable, but he is also seen as probably guilty of the charges.
But this time it seems that reality was far more fascinating the fiction.

Big difference with reality:  there is a trial (This is 'LAW and order', after all!) and the man is convicted of a lesser charge and sent to Rikers for one year. This may be wishful thinking for many people even if in the end, it seems that we'll never really know what happened in the real case.

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