TV Heroes: Law & Order: SVU and the passion of Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson

BensonWithin our month-long TV Heroes series at CarterMatt our goal is pretty simple: Recognizing some of the strongest heroes and role-model characters on TV, what makes them heroic, and also how the performances better accent that heroism.

If you were to ask the average viewer who is one of the most-notable heroes in the medium, there is a pretty good chance that Olivia Benson of Law & Order: SVU is going to be one of them. She’s a powerful, and compelling leader, and not just because of her job. We know that she leads a team to help get justice for victims of sexual assault, kidnapping, and other heinous crimes but the thing that makes her all the more striking is what she does beyond that.

With Olivia, you know that the job is more than just a place that she visits for work every day. She takes it home with her, deals with it on her off hours, and has seen and heard so much over the years to understand the pain of victims more than almost anyone. While it may be easy to think that real heroes are just the ones who go out on the streets to bring in the bad guys, it’s also the ones who has empathy, caring and takes the time to listen and understand. Think back to “Something Happened,” given that this was Olivia’s heroism at its finest. It was about taking the time to get through to someone more so than engaging with a suspect or conducting some sort of grand sweep of a property to take someone down.

Beyond just with suspects and victims, Olivia’s also a hero to her team. She sets a standard that everyone respects, and while she’s far from perfect she admits her mistakes and deals with the aftereffects of them. She knows her convictions, she trusts in herself, and she’s shown that she won’t back down for something she feels is worth fighting for.

The performance of Mariska Hargitay

A number of Olivia’s heroic traits also stem from the woman playing her. Hargitay is a known advocate for helping to reduce sexual assault in America and also making sure that victims receive the help that they need. She also injects humanity, relatability, and drive into Olivia. She brings the scripts to life and embodies a character who is formidable, challenging, and layered. One of the biggest tasks with a character like this is trying to be an inspiration without having that self-awareness of it. Olivia doesn’t so much think of herself as a role model; she’s more of a crime-solver and problem-solver who focuses on just doing the job the best she can. She has to tune out the noise and Mariska must put herself in her head and in her heart in order to do that.

Knowing what we’ve seen from SVU season 19 so far, we have a feeling that there are more big episodes for Benson, and more fantastic performances from Hargitay in turn.

Related Check out some additional updates now on the next new episode of SVU

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