Last week it was announced that Mike Tyson will make a guest appearance on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU” slated to air in February.
Tyson’s character, Reggie Rhodes, is described as, “a murderer on death row who is also the victim of a difficult childhood.”
Viewers have voiced mixed emotions about the casting given Tyson’s personal history with the law.
Tyson was convicted of rape in 1992 and served three years in prison.
A battle is being waged via several social media outlets regarding the casting.
On Twitter, Elizabeth DeHoff (@elizabethdehoff) posted, “I understand your reasoning re: MT, but I can’t get on board. If you hired my rapist, I’d be just as furious.”
An online petition at Change.org by Marcie Kaveney of Fort Myers, FL requesting NBC to reconsider the casting of Tyson has garnered only minimal support.
One responder to the petition, Connor Behan of Vancouver, BC, Canada, wrote, “Don’t pull the episode. Re-shoot Tyson’s parts with another actor. Censorship is never the answer.”
While the idea certainly has its detractors, there are some who have expressed their support of the casting.
Charlotte (@ceh95) says, “We know #svu can make this work. No doubt in mind. I don’t know why people are being critical…”
In response to the criticism, showrunner Warren Leight (@warrenleightTV) took to Twitter himself, posting a series of Tweets to explain the intent behind the casting.
In a series of seven tweets posted by Leight, he says, “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 rehabilitation 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.”
This seems in line with the thoughts of Deliz (@IDELIZ1), who writes, “SVU is not a sitcom…you have to have an open mind to watch and leave judgment aside.”
I will echo the sentiment of Deliz’s opinion with my own 140 characters, saying, “Viewers should trust that those in charge will use this opportunity to explore actions & consequences in a thoughtful, compelling manner.”
Whatever your thoughts are concerning this announcement, why not make it a point to view the final product before decreeing this either a bad idea or a worthy venture?
Hesitating to use the word judgment here, as that term often invokes a harsh image, viewers really might want to wait until all sides are presented before forming a final opinion. While this casting might seem shocking now, it’s possible that once everything unfolds onscreen, it may, in hindsight, become a non-issue that caused a dust-up for nothing.
The outcome of this episode, and the accompanying controversy, is sure to offer many unforeseen revelations; hopefully, the kind that lead to further discussion of not just the business of television, but more importantly the issues that influence the need for this type of storytelling, where the word ‘victim’ has so many different types and meanings.
“Law & Order: SVU” airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.
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