Depicting a crime involving a transgender victim can be tricky.
TV shows run the risk of reinforcing harmful stereotypes or encouraging violence against trans people even when the show's intent was the opposite.
Law & Order: SVU has never shied away from tough topics, though, and for the most part Law & Order: SVU Season 18 Episode 6 did an admirable job of depicting some of the cultural and societal forces at play when it comes to transphobia and related issues.
Having the assault occur in the bathroom was, sadly, realistic, as public bathrooms are often the most dangerous place for transgender individuals. "Bad Rap" didn't focus much on this aspect of the storyline, though the adult witness to the crime expressed some of the attitudes that contribute to this problem.
She's just a kid. It's not her fault that some man in a dress got attacked.Mother
The woman's attitude was, in some ways, stereotypical. She felt that people belonged in the bathrooms corresponding to their birth-assigned gender and disparaged Eva for wearing dresses. The writers' agenda was a little too clear in these scenes; this witness' opinion was not at all nuanced, and she didn't come across as a full-fledged character.
However, Olivia responded to her in her typical, strong, anything-for-a-victim manner, and that was delightful to watch, even if some more clarity on why, exactly, this mother felt a need to shield her daughter from this case would have been nice.
Olivia reaffirmed that Eva was a human being who had a family that loved her, something that is often forgotten in the sad statistics surrounding these types of cases.
In the second half of "Bad Rap," the rapper who was secretly dating Eva killed his producer, who happened to have been the one who assaulted, raped and killed her. Olivia went a little bit off the rails here.
It's true that Hype had reason to be angry and that Cash was not exactly a model citizen. But Barba's point that there is no right to vigilante justice still stands, and it was a little upsetting to hear Olivia justifying the murder.
The reason my skin was under her fingernails is cause we had sex. Eva and me are dating. We're in love.Hype
Hype himself was a far more nuanced character than the transphobic witness to his girlfriend's murder. He clearly loved Eva and felt guilty about his inability to go public with their relationship, yet preferred going to jail for a long period of time to admitting that truth.
Hype could have also easily been a stereotypical character, but his inner conflict was so clear that it took the story to a different level. This episode raised a lot of questions about rap culture and perhaps about the intersection of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
The exploration of the factors influencing Hype's behavior was subtle.
Viewers weren't hit over the head with a sociology lesson, for the most part; instead, he was presented as a well-rounded character who seemed wedded to living a double life and unable to resolve the conflict between his feelings and what was expected of him.
Hype: Keep at it, G. You can be the next Eminem.
Fin: And you can be the next brother from Harlem doing time.
Fin's reactions were particularly interesting.
Hype and some of the other rappers involved in this story seemed to expect that he would be on their side because of his skin color. Though it was never mentioned, I couldn't help thinking about the fact that Fin has a gay son. It would have been interesting to explore how that impacted his feelings about this case.
Fin's understanding of rap culture helped the other detectives understand what was going on, but there were very few indications of how he actually felt about it. Deepening Fin's character development here might have helped add another dimension to this story.
HE looked like a girl. So when I found out the truth, I made a few jokes.Hype
Fin also was the only person in the entire story to admit that gender identity issues can be confusing even to well-intentioned people. He had no malice or hatred towards Eva, but he didn't quite understand.
That was an important point that nobody really responded to. In order to prevent future crimes of this nature, that confusion, and sometimes anger, needs to be addressed.
What did you think of "Bad Rap"? Did you think the issues were depicted accurately and fairly? Did you agree with Benson's assessment of Hype, or were you more on Barba's side?
Weigh in below, and don't forget that if you missed something, you can always watch Law & Order: SVU online to catch up.
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.