The haters gonna hate -- I guess?
I was an actress. For 12 seasons, I played Kathy Stabler, a cop’s wife on “Law and Order SVU.” It was a good gig. I got paid by the episode. It wasn’t “crazy TV money,” but it helped pay the bills while I raised a family. It was a job and I’m grateful I had it. Then one day, more than a decade and another career later, I was asked to come back on the same show as the same character for a single episode only to get blown up and killed by a car bomb – crazy TV stuff.
I agreed. Why not? It was an opportunity to take out the old acting tools, play with my friends and former colleagues Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni, see the squad room, and get fake blood squeezed on my face. When I filmed the show, we all said, “just like the ol’ days.”
But it ain’t like the ol’ days – something has seriously changed.
When I started working on “Law & Order,”, social media didn’t exist. If fans liked what your character did, or didn’t do, you were kind of in the dark about it. Not so today. After last week’s episode, I woke up in the morning, shuffled around in my robe, said goodbye to my child and husband, made a cup of tea and opened Twitter to see what was going on in the world. Wasn’t there a big vote on Capitol Hill? What’s the latest vaccination news? You know the drill.
I should have turned on the radio.
My feed, which is normally pretty sleepy, a retweeted article here, a few shoutouts about a recipe there, was a stream of eye-popping-bile posts, at me! My character, the deceased Kathy Stabler, was trending on Twitter. Gliding over links and threads, memes and emojis, I started, well, crying. “KATHY STABLER IS BURNING IN THE DEEPEST PART OF HELL.” Scroll, scroll…“YOU DESERVE TO BLOW UP!” Scroll, scroll…“Good morning to absolutely everyone except Kathy Stabler’s ghost.” Scroll, scroll… “This girl is the nastiest, skank bitch I’ve ever met!”
Met? I’m sorry, have we met?
Kathy Stabler’s murder at the end of last season led to yet another “Law & Order” spinoff, this one called “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” starring my now widower husband, Elliot Stabler, played by Chris Meloni. Throughout the 23 seasons of “SVU,” there has been a love story between Elliot and Mariska Hargitay’s character, Olivia Benson. It started as a simmer and has been heading toward a rolling boil. Like Moonlighting and countless TV love stories of, there’s a tried and true, will-they-get-together-or-not-plot, that has the show’s millions of fans all riled up. Some want Elliot and Olivia to get it on, and some don’t. There’s a divide, and even though Kathy Stabler has departed from this earth, she’s still smack in the middle of it. And there was this letter which to this day, I still don’t know what the heck was in it – truth - I don’t care.
Anyway, I don’t watch “Law & Order.” And while I love Mariska and Chris, if their characters were falling for each other or not wasn’t my concern. Once they buried me, I continued on my life as Isabel Gillies, mom, wife, mahjong player.
After reading a lot - but not all - of the personal attacks, barbs, jabs and just plain ol’ meanness, I caved and called my husband in tears. I’m only human, when you portray a character for 23 years (I’m including re-runs) it gets personal! Then I called Mariska. Do you get this? Mariska is one of the most empathetic, loving people on this earth. Hard to imagine she has much experience with vitriol, but sadly, she’s had plenty of it. After accepting her invitation to the higher road called, don’t-take-it-personally, I pulled myself together and had this lasting thought. What if I were Anthony Fauci? Or Jen Psaki? Or Nikki Haley? What if I was running an organization like Mom’s Demand or the Club For Growth? Or a magazine with opinions, like any of them. Lying on the floor, (the only place that felt safe frankly) the weight of the hatred that must come daily at these people – they are just people, people –got me up off the ground and on my computer.
Can we please all take it down a notch? No matter what our personal views are about TV love stories or climate change or the Senate parliamentarian, can we pause? There is the acronym T.H.I.N.K. Is it thoughtful? is it honest? Is it interesting? Is it necessary? Is it kind? I’m going to try to put everything I say or write through this little fail-safe. Goodness knows we’ve all been through the ringer. I often feel the urge to spew a nasty rant as much as the next person, but if a second-tier character on a primetime drama can be the victim of a ferocious online melt-down because of make-believe, it kills me to think what actual important civil servants must have to endure. It seems we’re all screaming at each other all day, every day. Is it worth it? Can we stop?
Can we think?