Happy 25th anniversary, Law & Order. (Mandatory *clang clang* inserted here.) Sister police procedural series Law & Order: SVU celebrates 16 years next week. The salacious SVU’s ripped-from-the-headlines narratives often play as over-the-top and corny — captured hilariously in the Ice T meme that recently made the rounds. But the long-running show should be celebrated for featuring one of television’s most empowering female characters, Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson.
The Sergeant of Manhattan’s SVU division topped a recent survey of favorite female characters on the small screen. Those not familiar with the series probably came to know Liv Benson thanks to Taylor Swift’s cat, named after the character (Swift may appear in an upcoming episode, too). Benson first appeared on the series with former partner Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) — a relationship similar to The X-Files’ Mulder and Scully, complete with sexual tension — but has since come into her own as the confident, compassionate, and capable Sergeant.
Benson is a mother to an adopted son, a survivor of sexual assault (who frequently battles sexism on the job), an unapologetic sexually active woman (with colleague Brian Cassidy, played by Dean Winters), and a resourceful detective. Her non-nonsense attitude is appealing, her experience as a woman is reflective of many other women’s stories, and her wisdom after years on the force makes her the backbone of the series. We’re celebrating the badassery of Benson with a few GIFs and quotes that prove why she’s the realest and best.