“Law & Order: SVU” cast former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson as a prisoner and past victim of child abuse victim, who murdered one of his abusers. The episode bombed for the NBC show during the crucial “sweeps” ratings period, and Washington Post TV writer Lisa De Moraes attributes the failure to the show’s insensitivity in casting Tyson. She wrote in today’s Post,
“Before the episode aired, about 7,000 people signed a petition asking NBC to recast the role. The petition was created by an ardent “SVU” fan who is a rape survivor and who said she felt betrayed by the stunt casting. Among those who signed the petition: “NCIS” star and abuse survivor Pauley Perrette. Tyson was arrested in 1991 and charged with raping then-18-year-old Miss Black America pageant competitor Desiree Washington; he was convicted and served three years of a six-year prison sentence.”
If the “Law and Order” producers erred in casting Tyson, it was in under-estimating the fecklessness, bias and hypocrisy of the viewing public. Charlie Sheen is a serial wife-abuser and woman-beater, adulterer, drug abuser, jerk and shameless scofflaw, yet there haven’t been well-publicized protests from feminists about his getting cast in a succession of cheery sitcoms at seven figure salaries. Bill Clinton is a serial adulterer, sexual harasser, credibly accused rapist and impeached President, yet when he was chosen as a prime-time speaker at a Democratic National Convention highlighting women’s rights, no feminists protested, and Democratic women tuned in by the millions to cheer good old Bill. No organized protests followed CNN’s cynical decision to hire Mann Act violator and hooker ring customer Eliot Spitzer to host his own news commentary show, and MSNBC hasn’t faced any boycotts for pretending that Al Sharpton is respectable. It was perfectly reasonable for “Law and Order, SVU” to assume that Tyson’s one-episode appearance as a prisoner who suffered abuse as a child wouldn’t offend anyone, particularly since Mike Tyson was a prisoner, and was the victim of abuse as a child. Unlike the poses of, say, William Jefferson Clinton, Mike Tyson was not pretending to be something better than he is. Mike Tyson has also been fully punished for his crimes. Clinton, Sheen and Spitzer have not.
I am no Mike Tyson fan, but the selective fury of the public in general and feminists in particular is unfair and wrong. Tyson’s brutish conduct has been well-documented, but so are the horrible conditions of his environment, upbringing, and exploitation by others who made millions by keeping his inclinations as bestial as possible—all the better to pound boxing adversaries into unconsciousness with. No such mitigating factors exist for Sheen, Spitzer and Clinton, privileged, wealthy, well-educated white guys who keep getting second, third and fourth chances after abusing women, and who keep making them swoon anyway.
The murky message sent by popular and political culture about women’s rights is the fault of many people, public figures, institutions and groups, including women themselves, but poor, lost, dumb, broke, semi-articulate Mike Tyson isn’t among them.
Stop picking on him.
Source: Washington Post
Graphic: Pat Dollard