“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” often teases “ripped from the headlines” plots, but it’s the show’s casting of Mike Tyson for Wednesday’s new episode — titled “Monster’s Legacy” – that has generated headlines since news of his guest appearance broke last month. His role? Reggie Rhodes, a sympathetic victim of child abuse who murdered one of his attackers.
In real life, the former undisputed heavyweight champ was arrested in connection with the rape of an 18-year-old beauty queen, Miss Black America hopeful Desiree Washington, in July of 1991. In February of the following year, he was convicted of one count of rape and two counts of criminal deviate conduct. Tyson served three years in prison for the convictions.
News of his “SVU” part shocked fans of the show, but what better way than during the February sweeps to draw attention to your program? Stunt casting is a tried-and-true tool networks have employed to amp up the ratings.
But inviting “Iron Mike” to “SVU” appears to be particularly scurrilous given the fact that the show has always been an advocate for victims of sexual abuse. Series star Mariska Hargitay, who plays Det. Olivia Benson, even founded Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to help heal, educate and empower victims of sexual abuse. (According to the Washington Post, the organization has opted to disassociate itself from the casting decision.)
Interestingly on Wednesday’s episode, Benson — always a huge advocate for the rape victims — appears to work hard to get viewers to see Tyson’s Rhodes as the victim:
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