Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's take on recent well-publicized hate campaigns against women in video games was a plodding procedural with some truly terrible dialog. But it managed to hit most of the hotspots of the last few months.
Trigger Warning and Spoilers
It's worth noting that if this show had aired a year ago, we'd have all thought it preposterous. Sadly, it's based on horrible things that have actually happened.
It follows a young game entrepreneur, Rayna Punjabi, who becomes the focus for a hate campaign by men, who, as Ice-T's cop character points out "aren't ready to give a girl the power" to make video games. The show's researchers, helped by Ice-T, an avid gamer, did their work well in covering the main story beats of the past year, without getting bogged down in extraneous detail.
The show didn't mention GamerGate specifically, but the litany of online rape and murder threats, mind-numbing misogyny, doxxing and swatting are all cribbed from events over the past year, a time during which that "movement" has been widely associated with hostility towards women in games. Rayna Punjabi is clearly a composite of Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn, who faced much of GamerGate's ire.
The story begins at a game convention where a young woman who works for Punjabi is threatened and assaulted by thugs. "Go home gamer girl," they snarl before dropping the word "feminazi," on her. She goes to the bathroom and is sexually assaulted by the thugs.
The cops trace the criminals by luring them through online hate sites. But Punjabi faces more serious threats from a scary man in a mask, posting lurid and frightening threats online, ranting about political correctness.
Punjabi is in the middle of a big game launch, a role-player called "Amazonian Warriors." At one point, a deliciously seedy games journalist, marked as being "on her side" starts asking about sexism. Punjabi wants to focus on the launch of her game. She and her team are keen to keep the hate campaign in the background, so they can focus on the game's launch.
The show rolls through Punjabi being doxxed, swatted and finally kidnapped at a live presentation.
Unfortunately, this being prime time network TV, we're forced to endure some seriously awful game-related dialog. The young woman, after being assaulted, says her attackers have "leveled up." This is borderline offensive, given the circumstances.
As the show progresses, it takes a turn into predictable cop drama fare. This salacious show's primary focus is on sex crimes, not video games, and the script follows a generic pattern, drifting into some really unpleasant scenes.
But it's clear that the crimes being perpetrated here are motivated by a desire to humiliate and subjugate women, pretty much in line with the aims of the real hate campaigners.