I’m a pretty devoted watcher of crappy cop shows. They’re so gloriously bad and unrealistic. The detectives on Law & Order: SVU secured a search warrant maybe once every five episodes for the first seven or so seasons; they would always just tell a person that they were going to go get a warrant and execute it in the most publicly humiliating manner possible, and the suspect would fold and let them in anywhere. The stunts that CSI pulls off with its forensics range from the absurd to the impossible. I even enjoy the stupid decisions and overt bias and didactism of Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson.
But there’s only been one time when SVU really disappointed me. In the eighth or ninth season, Elliott Stabler’s wife got pregnant with their fifth child. Because of Kathy Stabler’s “advanced age,” there was much fear that the baby would be born with Down Syndrome or some such. Toward the end of the season, the baby was born (Elliott Jr), all was fine, a nation of SVU fans breathed a sigh of relief.
This always made me sad. The producers of SVU missed a grand teaching opportunity. Maybe nobody on the writing staff has a close loved one with a disability, if they do, they must have been overruled.
Elliott Stabler’s a working class guy with hard edges and a temper. He doesn’t generally do tender or affectionate. But he’s fiercely protective of his kids (of all kids), and that instinct always overrides his judgmental prejudices (including homophobia, transphobia, impatience with drug addicts, etc etc). He believes in the innocence of kids. Had Eli been born with Down’s, Elliott would, eventually, have loved and accepted his son, at first in spite of his disability, but eventually because of it. He and Kathy would have learned to deal, and Elliott would have been even more protective of Eli than he is of his other kids. And in that process, millions of television viewers who have never seen an episode of Life Goes On would be introduced to the idea that Down’s is something that can be dealt with. He would put a picture of his baby on his desk and work, and when co-workers asked about his son, and said that they were sorry to hear he’d been born with Down’s, Elliott would say, “I’m not.”
I’d rather people learn that lesson from Elliott and Kathy than from Sarah Palin.