You read that right: convicted rapist Mike Tyson has a guest appearance coming up on the American TV drama whose main subject matter is sexual violence and the criminal justice system. Granted, they already have Ice-T who is fairly problematic from a feminist perspective, well, really the whole concept of the show is problematic insofar as the use of VAW as entertainment helps to normalise it, but, come on, hiring Mike Tyson?
The hiring of convicted rapist, violent offender and perpetrator of domestic violence Mike Tyson is just taking the piss completely. FGS, the episode is being advertised as “Mike Tyson to Punch up Law & Order SVU”; although that article does helpfully point out that Tyson’s role as death row inmate “likely won’t be particularly challenging for Tyson, as he’s also spent time behind bars before, serving three years in prison for rape.” Good to know that pesky little rape charge has given Tyson the necessary experience to parlay his career in violence into a career in acting.
This, apparently, is the response by showrunner Warren Leight to the criticisms raised.
“We understand the casting of Mike Tyson seems inappropriate to some SVU fans. While in no way excusing his past actions, it’s worth noting MT was convicted over twenty years ago, and served his time. In recent years he has found sobriety, and started a foundation to meet the comprehensive needs of children from broken homes. The episode itself deals with many issues, including the ongoing effects of childhood abuse, the possibility of rehabilition, and the potential for disastrous results when individuals and/or the justice system pre-judge or fail to contextualize. Because of SVU’s subject matter, all of us have a profound sense of our responsibility. Our intent, as always, is to provoke discussion and awareness. We ask you to keep an open mind. Thanks.”
It is worth noting that Mike Tyson was convicted over 20 years ago. It’s also worth noting that he has never taken personal responsibility for the crime. In fact, as recently as last year, he was labelling Desiree Washington a liar. It was hard to miss that piece of information since Tyson said during his Broadway show directed by Spike Lee. Other noted parts of the show: jokes about physically assaulting ex-wife Robin Givens and that whole accidental-biting-off of Evander Holyfield’s ear. That sounds to me like a rapist whose accepted the fact that he’s innocent of rape. Or, was that supposed to be accept that he’s guilty of rape? Does Leight know the difference?
I’m keeping an open mind here. My open mind remembers this article by Soraya Chemaly on 50 Actual Facts about Rape. It recalls this piece by Lauren Wolfe on Why Steubenville is not Dehli. It remembers the fact that the rape victim of Ched Evans had to change her name and leave the country to get away from pro-rape bullies. It remembers Steven Pollock receiving a non-custodial sentence for raping an unconscious 13 year old. It remembers the massive cover-up of Jimmy Savile’s 40 year career of sexual violence. It remembers convicted child rapist Roman Polanski, who fled the jurisdiction to escape prison, getting a standing ovation at the Oscars. It remembers the new James Bond film Skyfall including a scene where Bond rapes an adult survivor of child sex trafficking.
Warren Leight, like Spike Lee, clearly doesn’t remember any of this. Or, he cares more about money than he does the millions of women and children across this world raped daily who don’t need to see another convicted rapist get to play the victim.
There is a petition here requesting that NBC consider recasting the role played by Mike Tyson.
Please sign and share.