At the end of the day, “Law & Order: SVU” is designed to entertain audiences with gripping stories and complex characters. Even still, whether audiences realize it or not, the depictions of groups of people on television can impact how they view such groups in real life. That’s very much true in the case of “SVU,” which presents viewers with a fictionalized look at police and others involved in the justice system. According to John Oliver, “SVU” and shows like it have to be careful about the depictions they push to the masses, lest they skewer the audience’s perception of the real world.
“It’s completely fine to enjoy it. And it’s completely understandable to want Olivia Benson to exist. But, it is important to remember just how far it is from representing anything resembling reality,” Oliver said during a segment about the “Law & Order” franchise on “Last Week Tonight.” He explains that the series is doing a disservice by painting the image of a generally fair and typically infallible police system that’s largely devoid of issues rooted in classism and racism. He gives “SVU” credit for when it does explore concepts like corruption and police reform, but he argues it’s not always executed properly.
“Law & Order: SVU” is a TV staple and has been for years, but it’s not perfect. Like any reality-based fiction series, it’s important to keep in mind that — even though it doesn’t claim to be — it’s not an accurate depiction of the real world.