Angered Rape Victim: “Just Recast Mike Tyson on ‘SVU’ or Pull the Episode”
January 17, 2013
We’ve all heard of the Mike Tyson casting controversy surrounding NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which is in the middle of it’s 14th season, the long-running series one of the more higher rated scripted series on NBC, despite it’s age and recent changes: Chris Meloni’s Det. Stabler departing in 2011 with B.D. Wong’s Dr. Haung & Danny Pino (Cold Case) and Kelli Giddish (Chase) joining the cast afterwards + long-time showrunner/executive producer Neal Baer departing, replaced by Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s Warren Leight.
Law & Order: SVU fans are upset with the casting of Tyson in a role on the series period due to his rape conviction in the 1990s, but the fans are not the only ones upset, actual rape victims are upset to learn this again. There are TWO Change.org petitions have been created and are gaining [minimal] signatures daily: one to stop Mike Tyson from guest starring series (created by a fan named Christel Hampton-Poel in Brownhills, United Kingdom), and the other to have Tyson recast in the episode (created by a rape victim and survivor, Marcie Kaveney in Fort Myers, Florida), Change.org standing behind the latter petition.
Showrunner Warren Leight took to Twitter (Twitter: @warrenleightTV) to defend the series’ actions on casting Tyson (as well as Tyson himself): “We understand the casting of Mike Tyson seems inappropriate to some SVU fans. While in no way excusing his past actions, it’s worth noting MT was convicted over twenty years ago, and served his time. In recent years he has found sobriety, and started a foundation to meet the comprehensive needs of children from broken homes. The episode itself deals with many issues, including the ongoing effects of childhood abuse, the possibility of rehabilition, and the potential for disastrous results when individuals and/or the justice system pre-judge or fail to contextualize. Because of SVU’s subject matter, all of us have a profound sense of our responsibility. Our intent, as always, is to provoke discussion and awareness. We ask you to keep an open mind. Thanks.”
But fans and actual rape victims/survivors aren’t taking kindly to this. So what I did, was sit down in a brief Skype session with an actual rape victim – who wishes to remain anonymous – and I got her take on it, who better to ask an opinion about on this?
She said to me in our session, “I have been an avid fan of Law & Order: SVU since the beginning and well a fan of the whole franchise, and I’ve seen years of rocky decisions made by producers of the show, but this- this really takes the cake for me and it hurts. I understand that Mr. Tyson did his time and is trying to get his life back on track, and he has that right. But I don’t think the SVU producers and casting director thought this through before casting Tyson in an episode – despite what type of character he is portraying.”
She continued to me, “I’m just angry to learn this, Mr. Tyson was a violent rapist and now ex-convict and like most ex-convicts, he’s looking to change. I’m glad to know that he is, but with his past and to be cast in a series that helps rape victims in real life that want to seek justice against their attackers? It’s ludicrous and I feel that the SVU producers are ignoring fans and victims’ pleas not to do this. I just feel as if they are saying “We heard you, but it’s just the television business. You haven’t seen it yet, give it a chance.”
“Mr. Leight and the other writers and producers, they just sit behind their Twitters and they titillate the pairing-obsessed fans in this series. And none of them have come out to media outlets and talked about this, because they don’t want to.” She said in haste, “It’s like they did not think about the actual victims who watch SVU when they cast him. I don’t want to give the episode a chance, but I am willing to give Mr. Tyson one, away from SVU. It’s not about him, it’s about principle, in which I’m surprised that Mariska nor the JHF (Joyful Heart Foundation) has said something on Tyson’s casting on the series.”
I asked her what did she suggest of either SVU or NBC, she responded, “If the episode must be filmed with Tyson, and I don’t think that it does, NBC should pull the episode from the schedule and just make it available on DVD that way people who want or don’t want to watch the episode with Tyson they can at their leisure but if NBC doesn’t step in and take some kind of action, and it’ll fool me if they do; I suggest the SVU producers make the decision to recast Mr. Tyson, there are PLENTY other actual African American actors to portray such a convict, versus them casting an actual ex-convict.”
And I asked her a follow up question, how did (if it did) change her opinion of SVU. Upset she answered, “I’ve been giving this show chance after chance for as long as I can remember, really since season eight when the storylines changed after Mariska got back from her maternity leave. Around season eleven I admit, I stopped watching. I came back when I learned that Chris left, I think season 13 was the best season of SVU since. The current season is OK, I just feel the writers are loosing focus on what matters, despite how they defend their actions on Twitter. I’m giving SVU a break before Tyson’s episode, if it airs. I believe Marica Gay Harden makes a return, so I’ll watch her return and probably won’t bother tuning back in until the season finale in May, if even then.”
My last question to her was did she have anything to say directly to the SVU producers, she responded, “Focus more on the actual rape stories and keep the rape victims in mind. And write more legal scenes, show victims the whole process from start to finish; so when they aren’t afraid of their attackers or anything else, and they can hopefully hear the guilty verdict in real life and the healing can begin. Thank you.”
Law & Order: SVU returns with new episodes January 30th, who will be watching?
Do you agree with her, or do you have different thoughts, hit us in the comments!