Sex detectives: Law & Order: SVU's fans, critics, and characters investigate lesbian desire

Julie Levin Russo


I address the contested question of whether sex crimes detective Olivia Benson (a character on TV's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit played by Mariska Hargitay) is a lesbian, and the ways in which both fans and TV scholars approach this mystery. That is, I investigate not what we "know" about lesbians on/and television, but how we frame the very processes of this knowing. In both critical and fan discourse, debates about where to locate the queerness of television oscillate irresolvably between three sites: the text itself, audience interpretations, and the surrounding metatexts and contexts. With a primary theoretical framework drawn from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet, I analyze the cultural and televisual traditions that shape SVU's portrayal of deviant sexuality, and I assess how these resonate with fan interpretations in today's context of media convergence.


Convergence; Femslash; Queer theory; Television studies

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