Remember Law and Order, that show your grandmother watches when there’s nothing better on? If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that they often do “ripped from the headlines” episodes that focus on current events. If there’s a brutal murder or horrific sex crime in the news, it won’t be long before you see a thinly-veiled version of it on your television screen (assuming you’re one of the few who still watches local TV), but with crime on the decline there haven’t been a lot of juicy murders for the show’s writers to exploit. Therefore they’ve turned their attention to a new threat: people saying mean things to women on the internet. That’s right, this week’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will feature gamergate as its subject.
Ice-T vs. the Internet
In an episode entitled “Death Threats”, an Indian woman named Raina takes a brave stand against “cyber-terrorists” who are demanding she postpone the launch of her feminist video-game. They doxx and SWAT her, and even threaten to rape and mutilate her if she goes ahead with the release. The Special Victims Unit wants her to stop for her own safety, but she bravely decides to press forward in spite of their warnings.
Will she survive? Will 90s-era rapper Ice-T, who now has a part on the show, be able to stop the evil gamergaters in time? Will anybody actually purchase a feminist video game? You’ll have to tune in this Wednesday night at 9 PM Eastern, 8 PM central, to find out. If, like most modern people, you don’t watch broadcast TV, you can at least see the trailer here:
There’s a lot that could be said here. Of course this isn’t a fair representation of gamergate. Of course none of this, nor anything like this, ever actually happened. As we’ve seen, if anybody is in danger of being SWATted or doxxed, it’s people on the pro-gamergate side. But nuance and fairness aren’t television’s thing. They see an easy, controversial story, they do an episode on it, and then next week they forget all about it and move on to the next triple murder or co-ed rape. We saw this with the ABC Nightline story: it was unbalanced, unfair nonsense.
Part of the motivation for an episode like this is fear and jealousy. Television hates and despises video games (and video gamers) because video games and other forms of electronic entertainment are kicking television’s ass. Since 2002, broadcast TV audience ratings for shows like Nightline and Law & Order:SVU have been cut in half. Part of this is because of Netflix. Part of this is the ubiquity of the internet. But a big part of it is video games: people who 10 years ago would’ve watched Monday night football now play Madden, and people who might’ve watched the latest TV drama on Friday nights are now playing Candy Crush and Call of Duty. Those in the TV establishment hate and fear video games, and so any time they get a chance to portray the video gaming industry as a seething hellhole of misogynistic scum, they’re going to jump on it.
Lazy writing from a bad show
A lot of it is also driven by laziness. Writing a TV show is a full-time job, and whether a writer’s creative well is tapped out or not, the next episode still has to air. But thinking up new plots and interesting twists is hard work, and it’s so much easier to wrap a news story around a stock plot, say you’re “current” and “hip,” and then knock off at 4:30 PM to hit the local bar. How lazy are these plots? I’m fairly confident I can spoil the entire thing after only watching the trailer.
1. The story will open with a dramatic event. Raina, the attractive video game developer, will be showering at home when a SWAT team bursts through her door. She’ll be nearly killed.
2. We’ll learn all about Raina and her wonderful video game, and how she’s bravely standing up against the mean people on the internet who don’t want her to release it.
3. Ice-T and the gang will explain to one another what SWATting and doxxing is in witty expository monologues. Expect hilarious technobabble like we saw in the trailer. (“The threats are being uploaded through the Darknet!”)
4. Raina’s game is launching tomorrow, and the Special Victims Unit will want her to postpone it, but she won’t, because she’s so very brave.
5. That night something spooky will happen. There’ll be a fight with a shadowy figure outside her house, maybe. Or perhaps she’ll receive a particularly scary threat. Maybe she’ll even get a syringe in the mail, like pro-gamergate reporter Milo Yiannopoulos!
6. A bomb of some sort will go off during the game’s launch. There’ll be a lot of smoke and confusion, and chasing and maybe some gunfire. But in the end…
7. The real villain behind the death threats will be revealed to be this cisgendered white guy:
So don’t expect nuance, or fairness, or even particularly intelligent TV from this week’s gamergate episode of Law & Order: SVU. It’ll be another bad episode of another bad TV series. And in the end, it will have the exact same effect on gamergate that the ABC Nightline report had: none.