Why Law & Order Hates You

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AUTHOR: Stanley Fish of The New York Times

THESIS: You may love Law & Order, but Law & Order doesn't love you. In fact, Law & Order probably hates you

WHY LAW & ORDER PROBABLY HATES YOU: You probably belong to one of the categories of people the series obsessively demonizes--of which there are many

THINGS THAT ARE NOT LAW & ORDER'S 'MOST REMARKABLE FEATURE': "the brilliant formula that offers both the comfort of predictability and the promise of constant surprise ... the ability of the show to survive major cast changes without missing a beat, ... the considerable accomplishment of making the arcane vocabulary of the law ( 'fruit of the poisoned tree,' 'asked and answered,' 'prejudicial,' 'allocute,' 'goes to relevance') as familiar to TV viewers as the jargon of sports"

LAW & ORDER'S 'MOST REMARKABLE FEATURE': "the extraordinarily long list of professions, classes and category of persons it doesn't like"

PEOPLE HATED BY LAW & ORDER: "Rich people," "children of rich people," doctors, priests, rabbis, evangelical Christians, "high-roller businessmen, developers, drug manufacturers ... actors, rock stars, athletes, artists, dancers, high-profile academics, writers,"any lawyer who does not work "for the people," FBI agents, judges, politicians

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THE COMMON ELEMENT (OR WHY LAW & ORDER AND SESAME STREET, SADLY, ARE FUNDAMENTALLY OPPOSED): "What links those who inhabit these various categories is that they are not ordinary folks. 'Law & Order' hates people who stand out."

HEROES OF LAW & ORDER: "those who soldier on day after day"

: "the liberal state is committed to a regime of justice that is not a respecter of persons, but persons--especially persons who have managed to distinguish themselves in some way--are forever working to undermine it"


The only way to be O.K. in Dick Wolf's world is to have a job that is steady but doesn't pay very much, to drive a five year old car you're still paying off, to live in a small house with a large mortgage, to have an education that helps you get by but doesn’t give you any fancy ideas, to attend a house of worship that is the center of your social life, and to have almost no leisure time. Unless you fit that profile, "Law & Order" probably doesn't like you.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.