The Law and Order: SVU ep “Identity” [season 6, ep 12], summarized earlier, features a bitten penis, gangbanging, homeless women, ID theft, an anti-graffitti task force, a pair of unusually identical twins, a sex therapist, a secret language, possible incest, violent siblings, possible lesbianism, unethical investigation of medical records, non-consensual gender reassignment of a minor, molestation by therapist and, finally, “the perfect crime.” Now that I’ve summarized the plot for you, I’m exhausted. No, seriously, it’s time to examine some of the deleterious assumptions at work in your average SVU ep.
Thesis: SVU pathologizes everything in sight.
1. SVU pathologizes twins in this ep. With no justification whatsoever, the annoying SVU shrink calls Lindsey and Logan unhealthily “enmeshed” just because Lindsey attacks the detectives trying to arrest Logan and because Logan appears to be taking the fall for Lindsey. I think these two instances represent a very close sibling bond, but not icky enmeshment. However, throughout the course of the ep, Dr. Annoying’s pronouncement becomes less of an accurate description and more of a self-fulfilling prophecy as we see what lengths [i.e., sex with each other, blech] the twins’ perverted therapist, Dr. Creepy, forced them into.
Furthermore, SVU pathologizes Luke [formerly Lindsey] and Logan at the end of the ep by having them exploit their twinship to commit “the perfect crime.” One of them murders Dr. Creepy, but which twin it is cannot be discerned either by the security tape or by the DNA left in spit on Dr. Creepy’s corpse. Luke and Logan will not tell which of them killed Dr. Creepy either, so they remain uncharged. The crime comes across not as a 14-year-old killing in justifiable retaliation for years of abuse and mistreatment, but a cunning plan concocted by two diabolical young masterminds with a secret, evil world shared between them. The ep’s last shot, of Luke and Logan each leaning against the wall of their interrogation room, seeming to touch each other through the wall, provides an image of an unnatural connection that breaches all barriers and wraps its participants in perversion.
I should note that, in my viewing of most of seasons 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, SVU shows no identical twins as non-perp characters, thereby reinforcing the idea of twins as unusual, suspicious and prone to crime.
2. SVU pathologizes trans people in this ep. For example, Luke and Logan’s former nannies describe unusual things about Luke. When he was Lindsey, he started rip-roaring fights with Logan. He didn’t like his mom always nagging him about his appearance. He hated to wear dresses. As we hear these clues, we know that they are leading up to some revelation about the twins, their relationship and possibly their parents. Thus each piece of information that we learn about Luke’s past seems menacing and problematic. The detectives certainly agree with this assessment; they assume that the twins are engaged in incest, which might explain Luke’s hostility toward Logan, but which does not factor in Luke’s loathing of dresses and sensitivity to criticism about his appearance from his mom. Anyway, when we find out that Luke underwent non-consensual gender reassignment when a baby, we understand his behavior, but it still remains coded as unnatural and disgusting, in the same category as incest.
This ep of SVU also implies that Luke as a trans person is filled with horrible rage, which caused him to murder Dr. Creepy. The conclusion is not made for us, but all the steps are laid out. In the beginning, Dr. Annoying diagnoses Logan with “anger issues,” which we can easily assign by extension to Luke, especially after he beats up Stabler when Stabler and Benson are trying to bring Logan in. So Luke is an angry person. We also hear that Dr. Creepy basically forced his disturbed and disgusting theories about non-consensual gender reassignment on the Stanton family, including Luke, of course. When we learn that Dr. Creepy has been murdered by one of the twins, it’s not too far a jump to posit that Luke did so out of anger over his non-consensual gender reassignment at the hands of Dr. Creepy. While this may serve to make the twins more sympathetic because their motive could be interpreted as justifiable retaliation after chronic molestation, the ep also makes a connection between trans identity, loss and rage, as if a trans person must be angry because something is missing.
I should note that, in my viewing of most of seasons 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, SVU shows no trans people as non-perp characters, thereby reinforcing the idea of trans people as suspicious, violent and prone to crime.