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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Editorial: ‘Law and Order’ Giffords episode trivializes tragedy

In a desperate bid to stay relevant, the “”Law and Order”” franchise plans to tackle the Jan. 8 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others. That’s one way to bring ratings back up.

According to the Associated Press, filming began this week, and while there’s no official date yet, rumor has it that the episode is expected to be the show’s season finale. Two words: too soon.

Although updates on Giffords’ recovery remain cheery — She’s left-handed now! She can speak in full sentences! She’s going to her husband’s space shuttle launch on Friday! — it’s easily, obviously, too early to turn the Jan. 8 tragedy into a TV drama.

Representatives of “”Law and Order: Los Angeles”” and NBC executives insist the storyline, though clearly based on the shooting that hospitalized Giffords and 13 others, is a work of fiction. But according to Entertainment Weekly, the episode will be about a “”female state senator gunned down in a public setting.”” It doesn’t exactly sound unfamiliar.

Granted, maybe it’s no big deal because no one actually watches “”Law and Order: Los Angeles.”” But the show’s poor ratings don’t detract from the fact that using the shooting of 14 people and the murders of six others, including a 9-year-old girl, to get people watching is despicable.

It’s not the first time that the franchise has been inspired by a political attack. An episode of the fifth season of “”Law and Order”” was about the murder of a gay city councilman. It was based on the assassination of San Francisco city councilman Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to serve in California. But the episode originally aired in 1995, and Milk’s assassination was in 1978.

“”Law and Order”” and all its spinoff series frequently rip episode plots straight from headlines, and then turn those storylines into something recognizable and relevant, but generic enough to air for late night reruns on cable TV.

There’s no exact timeline for when it would be OK to air such an episode, or even when it would be OK to consider airing it. But it’s only been two and a half months. Did the writers at least wait until Jan. 9 to scribble down “”female politician shot”” in their list of ideas?

For some people, it might never be OK to see a TV show inspired by Jan. 8. But it’s definitely not OK for anyone yet.

The optimistic reports of Giffords’ progress are still cautious — forming longer sentences frustrates her, and she is not expected to make a public statement at the launch —  and dozens of people are still recovering from the shooting.

You don’t just wake up one day, months after having your entire world changed by gunfire, and feel exactly like the way you did before it happened. But you can find a new normal, to borrow a phrase from Giffords’ doctors. You can heal and move on. You can feel better. Turning on the TV and catching some fictionalized version of yourself, sensationalized and manipulated to heighten a viewer’s emotions, won’t help to accomplish that.

The Giffords-inspired episode of “”Law and Order: Los Angeles”” is inappropriate, plain and simple. Apparently another spinoff of the franchise, “”Law and Order: Criminal Intent”” will also air an episode based on the accident-prone Broadway musical, “”Spider-man: Turn off the Dark.”” In that episode, an actor is killed during the production of a show called “”Icarus.”” Other characters will include the director, a born-again drunk, and a bisexual rock star.

One show about “”Spider-man.”” Another about a national tragedy. This might demonstrate the order of the “”Law and Order”” franchise’s priorities.

 

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Kristina Bui, Ken Contrata, Michelle A. Monroe and Heather Price-Wright. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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