Law & Order: SVU 23×10 “Silent Night, Hateful Night” was a hate crime that happened over Christmas. Or, um. It was about a series of hate crimes that took place on Christmas. But actually, that first sentence didn’t have any typos in it. There was just way too much going on here and way too much room for traumatizing viewers in new and awful ways.
The beginning of the episode featured images that looked like they could have come straight out of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass.” Someone threw rocks through the windows at a synagogue, literally breaking glass, and vandalized Jewish businesses, just like was done on that awful night. And yeah, we’ve never learned from that history, so folks still like to attack Jewish folks with rocks in modern times.
But wait! It gets better (worse). SVU 23×10 made sure the vandalized Judaica shop was covered in swastikas, an image we’ve all learned to fear and which has made its presence more and more known in recent years, dishonoring the memory of the six million and countless others that perished while the world watches and does absolutely nothing to learn from any of it.
One could argue that having the series highlight these attacks would be a good thing—a chance to bring awareness to what is happening and has always happened. Maybe someone like me, who lives with the fear that her temple will be next, who gets to be the one to open the hate mail at said temple, will feel seen by it. Perhaps it could make myself or others feel less alone. But then, you hear lines like “she made it through Auschwitz, but she may not survive this,” and any benefit of the doubt goes out the window.
Nobody who survived Auschwitz—whether Auschwitz II, the extermination camp most folks associate with the name, or the concentration camp arm of the compound—was going to suddenly be too fragile to handle a little bit of vandalism. That’s…that’s not at all how this works, especially considering, no matter where this faceless bubbe was from she would, likely, have faced that sort of thing prior to being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. If not, given the status of the United States, and New York in particular in recent years, she wouldn’t have escaped it.
Now, maybe what Law & Order: SVU 23×10 was attempting to do here was say “hey, this person has already survived something so terrible, we’ll never be able to wrap our minds around the reality of what happened there. Now, seeing these images, she’s been triggered. She’s back there. Her trauma has stayed with her, haunting her, every day since she became free. And now, this is just one more thing that’s too much, especially at her age.” Which, yeah. That would have been a good point to make and a good story to tell.
…but a throwaway line? No thanks. It reads as dismissive at best, erasure at worst.
It’s a nice sentiment. We do want the good guys, which the cops on Law & Order: SVU are supposed to be, to feel that way. But if the idea is to illustrate and bring awareness to the rise in hate crimes from white supremacist groups, going off about a Christian nation, blahblah, and how Jews like myself “control the media,” or how minorities outnumber the Big White Us? We can’t have the heroes spewing idiocy implying that we’re “better than this.”
Because we’re not. We never have been, and we sure as hell aren’t now.
So, how do we fix it? How do we actually become something that matches the image we want to have? In the first place, we own up to reality. We recognize that antisemitism is a huge problem, and no, it’s not just some label that we slap on anyone who has legitimate concerns about the state of Israel (its own can of worms, which we’re not even going to start on here). We also stop othering the Jewish people.
Broken record here, but like. We’re not all doctors and lawyers—that, too, falls into antisemitic tropes. To be fair, Law & Order: SVU 23×10, thankfully, didn’t hit that (bad) note. Instead…well. It did other careless things. Newsflash? We’re not all orthodox. In fact, most of us in America aren’t. Peyos (the side curls)? A large number of Jewish men…don’t have those. There’s not a one to be found at my shul, not even on the rabbi (who, incidentally, is not remotely like the caricature of a big religious figure you’re probably imagining). Jewish men don’t all wear the “funny hats,” as one of the teen boys in “Silent Night, Hateful Night” called them either. Again, it’s much less common than TV shows and movies would have you think.
The broad majority of us are indistinguishable from the rest of the people around us. That’s not to say that we don’t have rich traditions, that we’re a monolith of a lack of belief or a lack of anything that sets us apart…But conversely, we’re not all the stereotype. Most of us, in fact, don’t fit it. And stereotypes are harmful, even when not going into the clearly negative depictions.
Maybe if people saw that we don’t fit some outsider mold—saw us—more, that might be helpful.
But well, here we are.
That awkward moment when you’re investigating hate crimes…and your Chief is racist
Being Jewish, especially being visibly Jewish and other because of it, might put a target on your back…But it’s not the only “otherness” that does so, especially not in this country.
As in reality, so was the case here on Law & Order: SVU 23×10. Your equal opportunity advocates for inequality hit up a Halal restaurant; they burned a mosque. A Sikh man was also targeted and had his turban ripped off. When interviewed by the police, he mentioned his attackers equated him with Osama bin Laden. Because, according to the supposed “master” race and “superior” religion, all the people with a certain skin color are Muslims, and all of the Muslims are terrorists. This is, of course, about as far from the truth, on both accounts, as you can possibly get.
So much for white “supremacy.”
So, where were we? Ah, yes. The layers of horrible.
“So we can’t go after hate crimes against Jews if Black kids commit them?”
As part of the investigation into all of these crimes, both the deliberate and the convenient, three young Black men were found to have been guilty of throwing rocks and breaking the synagogue’s window on Shabbat. Putting aside everything else this episode tried to do, that would have raised enough of an interesting discussion—one about antisemitism that sometimes worms its way into the Black community and/or the shameful racism in the Jewish community. Our relationship is far too complicated for a television series, much less a one-off episode of procedural, to cover, though.
So, it wasn’t at all surprising that Liv saying something about releasing the footage of those three kids “becomes a meme” the second it gets out. I mean, it was surprising that she knew what a meme was…But Liv being the voice of reason, however stilted, while McGrath’s trash ass just wanted to close the case and move on? That was right on point.
McGrath is racist garbage (and a lot of other things, like also a misogynist). We’ve known that for every single second he’s been remotely involved with Law & Order: SVU.
With that being said, all the triggering images in “Silent Night, Hateful Night” didn’t need to be worsened by his attempted miscarriage of justice. When it was extremely clear that three teenagers—children—could not have been responsible for the entire string of hate crimes, McGrath still wanted to pin all of it on them. Read that again: Yes, they were guilty of one garbage act, which is not one I’m in the mood to forgive because rocks, broken glass, and Jewish imagery don’t mix for me. But no, the evidence did not point them to the physical acts against multiple people, of multiple backgrounds.
McGrath didn’t care. He saw three Black boys as worthless enough to rot in prison for the actions of white supremacists. And it took two NYPD Captains—both white and one of them, the one he really listened to, a man—for him to relent and let them continue searching for the real threat to society. It also took that mosque going up in flames for him to get a clue. Luckily, the “supreme” morons carrying out those acts had shitty timing…but even so, his racism could have caused so much more loss by hampering that investigation the way he wanted to.
Special Victims and Hate Crimes would not have had a chance to find that closet full of bomb-making materials, much less stop the main attack, in time if McGrath had his way. And children would have had their lives ruined over it all.
More (lack of) a silent night from Law & Order: SVU 23×10…
- If you’re going to talk about a survivor, like, literally, bring in an actual survivor. Show her to us while there are any, whatsoever, left.
- Lookit: I’m angry about a lot of things…But I’m cackling about Rollins wrapping her coat more tightly around herself and closing herself off during that first, awkward face-to-face with Murphy. That is some attention to detail from Kelli Giddish.
- The last time we saw Olivia Benson, her “friend” Elliot was asking her to come over for a Christmas thing. We have no idea whether or not she and Noah went. No mention either way, at all. What’s continuity? We don’t know her.
- So, uh. We’re deciding, with no proof to the contrary, that they went to the Stabler household…and…insert something dirty about Elliot and stuffing Olivia’s stocking here.
- Literally, the only time McGrath stuck up for Benson in this episode was when she was arguing with that Agent who happened to be…hm. Black. Can’t qWHITE figure that one out.
- Personal talk between Declan and Amanda, even in the midst of a very serious investigation: not too soapy. Interesting.
- “Darko” or wtfever cared more about his dog than human beings. Guess who else did. Guess. I’ll give you a hint: It goes along with all the other Holocaust triggers. But I’m not saying that guy’s name. Nope.
- Didn’t need to see Rollins with that white power hand symbol either. Nah. She could’ve used her blonde hair and pale skin to pretend to be on this guy’s “side” without that mess.
- Liv, baby, you remain so hot when you go hard in interrogation. I would have absolutely preferred an episode that was nothing but Livterrogation. Easily.
- No, really. Just put Mariska Hargitay in an empty room. Have her say words. Good stuff.
- The turtleneck sweater and leather jacket, though. Finally, some wardrobe pieces worthy of Mariska.
- Also. Her hair. So long. Yesssss.
- Y’all called Liv away from her son on a holiday for a case like this…And now, she’s got hours and hours of paperwork over a shooting? Thanks, I hate it.
- While we’re at it, it’s like, the world didn’t really suffer any great loss from the shooting in question? But Benson’s side comment about how she’s shaking now, or whatever the line was, should result in her talking to someone and getting actual support for once. But it won’t. Because while Law & Order: SVU is all about traumatizing Olivia Benson, it’s very rarely about giving her the support she needs to work through that.
- And, apparently, happiness makes her less badass or less here for the victims now, according to some.
- But that’s none of my business.
- Baldy said he wanted to find balance in this thing, though? Here’s your chance. Let him be there for her. (I’m not holding my breath.)
- “…the antisemitic tropes? ‘Jews will not replace us.’ It’s political.” Tea.
- Also political and very rooted in reality: The “Christian nation” garbage spewed by manifesto guy at the beginning.
- “It’s the sabbath. The orthodox don’t use their phones.” “I’m aware.” I can not begin to explain how hilarious Liv interrupting this old AF news was.
- Extra WTF points for Law & Order: SVU 23×10 airing on January 6, of all dates.