Live and let Love
In an interview with TV Insider at the start of Law & Order: SVU lead actress Mariska Hargitay was asked how she would like the series to end for Olivia Benson. This is what she had to say:
“With Olivia finding real peace and balance and love. She’s given so much to others that I want her, as she has fought for other people, to fight for herself.”
As a longtime fan and avid viewer, I have been following detective (now, Captain) Olivia Benson of Manhattan’s Special Victims Unit for the past 23 years and I can honestly say, at the point, I am very much invested in her journey. Olivia Benson is a kind of feminist icon as well as being a role model. She is a tireless advocate and ally for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. We have seen Benson fighting alongside her partner, Elliot Stabler, and we’ve seen her carry on alone in his absence.
We’ve see bad ass Captain Benson, and we’ve seen Olivia Benson, a trauma survivor. She has endured numerous physical, mental and emotional traumas including being sexually assaulted and struggling with PTSD. She carries the weight of helping others heal while trying to heal herself, unable to find balance.
Benson is a fighter. We’ve seen that time and time again. But at some point, that narrative no longer serves a purpose. There is no need for a female protagonist, because she’s a female, to be victimized on a weekly basis to prove how tough she is. We have seen her overcome so much, and we continue to root for her through every obstacle, the highs and the lows. She is passionate and fierce and her journey somehow feels relatable.
As a survivor who also works with survivors as a rape crisis counselor, watching that journey unfold, at least for me personally, has been a sort of cathartic experience. Because it is a journey and healing isn’t linear. You have times of darkness and hopefully, eventually, you start to heal and find your way toward the light, finding yourself again, finding happiness.
It was surprising to find that there is a group of “fans” the minority at this point, who love Hargitay’s Captain Benson, but feel that if she had a personal life outside of her work, it would somehow diminish her ability to be who and what she always has been. Not wanting a female character to have a romantic interest because you want them to be strong and independent is the opposite of a progressive feminist mentality.
Benson has had romantic interests, not many, and they were short lived. But the return of her former partner, Elliot Stabler, last year has caused speculation that Benson and Stabler might just end up together. At this point, it’s more than just speculation. And though the majority of fans are excited to see it happening, those taking issue with this particular pairing, are excessive in voicing their outrage and it’s both unnecessary and unwelcome in this particular fandom especially, because it is about survivors, and nothing is going to change that.
But seeing Benson find that there is time for joy and for love and that having her own life outside of work, could be one grounded in happiness. Being able to heal and allow yourself to love and be loved does not diminish who you are and what you do. For me, seeing the series end with Olivia Benson happy and at peace in her life would be a win, not only for Benson, but for survivors.
For the minority opposed, this is the direction the show is taking and it’s one that is earned and meaningful. If you don’t like it, the solution is simple: