‘Law & Order: SVU’s Fall Finale Sparks Fan Backlash on Social Media

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 20
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

[This post includes spoilers from the fall finale of Law & Order: SVU, “Alta Kockers.”]

Law & Order: SVU‘s fall finale took viewers on a twisty-turny ride with an ending no one expected.

The audience is introduced to a young woman, who is reading from her graphic and provoking memoir, titled Blue Barracuda, about time spent as a child prostitute. Her name is Bobbi O’Rourke, and she is later bludgeoned to death with a brick in the alley behind the building.

But, of course, there are many layers to this episode and crime. It turns out that Bobbi is actually a transgender sex worker named Tammy, who was hired by the book’s publisher to pretend to be author. The real Bobbi doesn’t come outside.

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The murder is solved pretty quickly. Tammy was killed by a former client of hers who was shocked to find out that she was a trans woman. He wanted to prove his “wasn’t gay.”

This leads Lieutenant Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and co. to discover an even more bizarre twist — Bobbi was never a real person. It was a pseudonym used by a reclusive old man (played by Wallace Shawn), who wrote the book about his own abusive childhood experiences. He lives in a big mansion with his older — and equally reclusive — brother.

The storyline itself didn’t confused SVU fans, but the way the show addressed Bobbi/Tammy was concerning.

Benson first refers to Bobbi/Tammy as, “she’s not a she — physically, anyway,” and suggests the murder was a hate crime since the victim was transgender. The detectives continued to refer as Bobbi/Tammy as “he” even though all evidence pointed to the fact at Bobbi/Tammy presented as female.

When Carisi interviews the publisher, who hired Tammy, he dismissively says he paid someone named, “Taffy, Teddy, Tammy, whatever the hell he was calling himself that week,” again making assumptions about what she identified as.

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Fans called out the producers, writers, and cast for not being more aware of their remarks on the crime show.

Executive producer Michael Chernuchin apologized on social media. He wrote, “I am so sorry that the promo for tonight’s episode caused hurt and confusion,” he tweeted earlier today. “It was misrepresentative of the story.”

Hargitay retweeted him and added her own apology. “Thank you for using your voices. You matter more than you know. We will do better.”

Law & Order: SVU, Returns, Thursday, January 10, 10/9c, NBC