Law & Order: SVU 24×08 uses the case of a murdered trans woman to try to show that people can grow and change. Or, maybe it’s just asking the question of whether or not it’s possible to be “a better person,” as the episode title says.
In some ways, that obviously well-meaning storyline is appreciated. There is a very fine line between, say, the Transphobe Jos of the world and folks who are actually capable of growth. On the other hand, basically…no. Just. No. It’s very difficult to praise an episode that, through
Professor Detective Rollins’ testimony, rightfully talks about how trans people are targeted when that same episode functions as a one-and-done turnaround for redeeming a father who “just needs time and learning.”
During the investigation itself, we even see the series’ icon of a hero repeatedly misgender a victim in order to placate her ignorant father. And that’s…It’s simply not ok.
It’s one thing to make a mistake when you don’t know. But the second Captain Benson and the rest of her squad learned who Aida was, that should’ve been the end of that. There’s not really a gray area of “oh, she’s doing what she has to do to solve the case” here either. No such fuzzy middle ground exists. Period. End of story. Because, if we normalize this in “some” cases, we inadvertently normalize it in all.
We’re even out here calling it “a tough situation to navigate,” when it’s just not.
Now, to be fair, Aida’s dad is not at all presented as the good guy here. He gets in Liv’s face, repeatedly, and disrespects her higher rank. (Also repeatedly.) “Mac” even purposely tampers with a crime scene and, for most of the hour, seems to think he’ll get away with it. So, it’s very clear this is a white male cop with serious garbage issues.
But…still. That doesn’t excuse “Badass” Benson doing something…frankly, not great…to get on his “good” side.
Not to mention, we could’ve wasted a lot less time on rehabilitating Detective McDaniels. After all, there was a survivor right there. And that survivor, Cora, deserved to have her story centered. It’s quite possible to show that someone like Mac (see how I used his preferred name? Simple!) can “come around,” so to speak, without putting the bulk of the focus on him.
And let’s be real here: Rain Valdez was incredible every time she was on screen — and her presence here shows some of the progress we’ve made in television finally casting out trans actors to play trans characters. So, like. Why wouldn’t you give her more screen time?
Am I glad Mac actually used Aida’s correct name and pronouns by the end of the episode? Absolutely. And, without a doubt, Law & Order: SVU 24×08 is far from the total mess it could have been. God knows we’ve had more than our fair share of terrible, unearned redemption stories.
But is Detective McDaniels’ sudden decision to come crawling out of his caveman era into the year 2022 — which, let’s be clear here: The year shouldn’t even matter because trans people have always been here — the warm and fuzzy moment “A Better Person” seems to have been aiming for? Nope.
More on Law & Order: SVU 24×08
- In retrospect, that corny AF opening pickup line was a red flag on the whole thing.
- First off, Fin calling Amanda “Professor” shows he still knows things. Second, he’s not special. I called it at the time.
- And you can totally tell, even as Rollins is like “I’m not a teacher” that she’s already thinking about it. Good stuff from Kelli Giddish there, actually. The right kind of petty continues.
- “I think today, it’s one minute at a time.” Everyone at Twitter dot com.
- “Sometimes, the absence of something has presence all its own.” The way this could apply to someone…
- “That neighborhood is racist, sexist, and phobic of just about everything.”
- On the one hand, great acting from everyone when they’re so shocked that “some chick” with the victim’s friend is actually…the victim. But on the other, are y’all new?
- “If I had to do it all over again, I would’ve bought him a beer and said I loved him.” HER. You would have bought HER a beer. Like, “poor me. I’m so sorry I didn’t love my ‘best friend since second grade’ for who she was. But I’m still…not getting it.” Cool story, bro.
- “…trying to live as Aida.” Nope. Is Aida.
- Shoutout to the mom. I didn’t even catch her name because I was too busy yelling “HER” and “AIDA” and “DAUGHTER” at the TV. But shoutout to her.
- Also: Liv and Amanda in their “omg. Drama to watch unfold!” facial reaction era during Aida’s parents’ fight was pretty great. It’s a true testament to both Giddish and Mariska Hargitay that I was able to enjoy it in the midst of everything else.
- “I think the most important thing is that you both love the same child.” Nah. Daddy Matt Parkman From Heroes loves who he wants that child to be.
- Which, to be clear: The complaints here are with the character, not Greg Grunberg.
- “I thought you were a Captain.” Weird, I thought you wanted to live.
- “I feel for you — I really do. But there’s one thing you should know about me: If I thought that you killed [Aida], you’d already be in cuffs.” So close to a “yasssss, Liv” moment. But I have to correct the name to give it the yasssss.
- Amanda’s “that went well” sarcasm for the win.
- “I’ve been giving guys like that the smackdown my entire career.” Except…you didn’t here, Liv. You didn’t here.
- “He wasn’t going to talk to us if I used the wrong pronouns.” “Wrong to him.” Get her, Amanda. (In my sudden Rollins stan era? Apparently. But to be more sincere, it’s nice to see that these two are at a place where they can challenge each other — and correct each other when they’re wrong. A true friendship.)
- Anyone else hear Fin call Muncy “Munce” and have, like, a Munch jumpscare or.
- “MA’AM SHUT UP.” A new fave.
- Real cops don’t try this at home, but it was more than just slightly satisfying seeing Muncy kick the transphobe’s ass.
- Liv, it’s really ok to shut down a trash man even when he’s mourning. I promise it is.
- “Actual numbers are under reported. Transgender people are a targeted community. They…they more often experience rape, sexual assault, murder…” Yep. That should be the focus and the takeaway here, not Daddy Mac’s Heart Grew Three Sizes Today or whatever.
- “People like to puts things in neat little boxes, and gender identity…just doesn’t work that way. It is a deeply felt individual experience, doesn’t always correspond to the sex given at birth…” That, too!
- Not this defense attorney throwing Amanda’s
TED Talklecture back at her. Ouch.
- Actually, the defense attorney was…yikes. Just super accurate to how survivors of these types of crimes are treated. But it’s always more difficult to swallow watching a woman do it. And, of course, one problem with copaganda is 90% of the time, we know the accused is the bad guy. So, their right to a defense becomes “wow, what kind of monster would defend that.” Yeah. Yikes.
- “You’re a saint. I have no idea how you work these kinds of cases every day.” Thanks for catching up, Daddy Matt Parkman From Heroes.
- “The world is a messed up place.”
- “I chose shame.” “Over justice for your child.” There it is.
- “Sometimes, people piss me off.” A mood.
- “Cora didn’t have that luxury.” …of having “these are their stories” be about her instead of Mr. Shame. Alas.
Thoughts on Law & Order: SVU 24×08? Leave us a comment.