Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Law & Order: SVU's Former Showrunner Apologized To Fans Over An Insensitive Season 20 Episode

For decades, Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) has been a champion for survivors and an empathetic shoulder to lean on. But as a major part of the controversial "Law & Order" universe that is losing fans, she isn't infallible. As recent as Season 20, Benson's trans rhetoric has had a baffling level of ignorance. Season 20, Episode 10 kicks off with the murder of Bobbi O'Rourke (Calhoun Koenig), an up-and-coming author who had just released a heartwrenching memoir about their experience in the sex work industry. Immediately upon examining the body, Benson proclaims that Bobbi is anatomically male and continues to misgender them, despite the author presenting themselves as female. After a flurry of backlash, showrunner Michael Chernuchin took to Twitter to defend the episode.

"I am so sorry that the promo for tonight's episode caused hurt and confusion. It was misrepresentative of the story. I hope the quote below offers some clarification. Nevertheless, we apologize for any hurt caused by Benson's line. Your voices are heard and matter to us," he wrote. Chernuchin attached a dialogue screenshot from Rollins (Kelli Giddish), giving more context to the issue.

"Bobbi wasn't transgender," Rollins says in the episode. "Robbie discovered that he could make more money pretending to be a teenage girl." But even with the facts in order, many fans were still left unsatisfied.

SVU has a binary view of gender

Calling the Season 20 episode "Alta Kockers" messy is an understatement. Bobbi's murder is solved hastily, while the narrative suddenly jumps to a tangentially related crime. Bobbi is glossed over as a victim, and their experience is never fully explained. This is only made worse by ignorant comments. As far as Benson knows when she first finds the body, Bobbi presents as female. She assumes that the victim identifies as male solely based on their anatomy while Bobbi is in no position to explain their experience. Michael Chernuchin's apology fails to explore the nuance of the issue, as one fan pointed out.

"Olivia didn't know that yet, so it doesn't excuse it at ALL," @Stanningspara responded to Chernuchin's post. The clumsy execution may be a writing blindspot more than anything else. Rollins is the one who tells Benson about Bobbi's story long after the lieutenant makes comments about them. Perhaps this was only a continuity error that went unchecked. But even with the best intentions, this makes the episode hard to watch.

"I am a trans mother," @da34amadeo wrote. "The comment, the [misgendering] hurt. I appreciate the promise to do better. SVU has changed with the years. This was a misstep. I believe you will do better. I hope you will. In all these years the show has educated and helped me evolve. I hope that continues."