BensonLover99 is a YouTube user dedicated to the prolific production of videos in tribute to Olivia Benson, the sex crimes detective played on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit by Mariska Hargitay. In just the past week, BensonLover (who, according to her YouTube profile, is a 16-year-old girl named Erika whose passion for dance “pretty much takes up my entire life”) has posted seven Benson-centric clips, each describing the character’s personal history and declining spirit from a different angle.
Seen as a unit, an all-Benson all the time spin-off, some of BensonLover99’s “episodes” are more successful than others. Olivia and Her Mother pulls most of its power and narrative from its soundtrack, a Reba McEntire/Kelly Clarkson duet of Clarkson’s “Because of You”. It’s the perfect song choice for the subject, and in picking images to match the song lyrics, BensonLover proves herself to be a smart editor with a feel for irony. In all of her clips, BensonLover seems to be drawing footage from a wide range of episodes culled from a variety of broadcast sources. But in this case she doesn’t have a lot to work with — the character of Olivia’s mother only actually appeared on screen in a single episode — so her determination to tell this part of the story despite a lack of material shows a remarkable dedication to the character.
Clips like “Olivia Wants Elliot To Stay With Her, Not Kathy..” and (my favorite) “Pour Some Sugar On Me – Elliot & Liv” are far more successful. They’re part of a sub-subgenre of SVU fanfic videos, dedicated to imagining a romantic relationship between Benson and her partner, the loose-canon family man Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni). In the sexually-charged “Pour Some Sugar,” BensonLover’s resourcefulness again pays off: her insertion of a clip of Elliot watching Olivia slice open a mattress at a crime scene is an inspired choice, in line with the logic-defying montages of adventure-themed ’80s music videos, such as Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.”
In eight seasons, Benson and Stabler have never so much as tenderly embraced, but to any casual watcher of the show, their bond is expressly manifest. Still, equally apparent is the knowledge that their relationship is forbidden — by their individual personal issues, by NYPD fraternization policies, by the Moonlighting/Who’s The Boss rule of TV couplery which states that sexual tension between lead characters on long-running hit shows should never, EVER be consumated.
This allows BensonFan99’s virtual realization of Benson and Stabler’s repressed love to essentially function as slash-fic. Slash is usually associated with repressed male/male love, but BensonLover99’s refocusing of Benson as lead protagonist, coupled with all of the societal factors keeping Benson and Stabler apart (not to mention the fact that Hargitay’s interpretation of Benson is, well, kind of butch) allows BensonLover’s videos to fit neatly within the Slash parameters described by Henry Jenkins:
Slash is a form of erotic writing, which differs from traditional male-targeted pornography, because it is more interested in the emotional rather than the physical lives of its characters…The construction of slash depends on reading certain looks and gestures exchanged amongst the characters as showing some hidden emotional truths and so song videos are often presented as visual evidence in support of a slash hypothesis about the series.
SVU puts scraps of its characters’ personalities and personal histories out in the ether, but only as a tool to soften what would otherwise be a pretty brutal show. BensonLover99 picks up these scraps and lovingly stitches them together. Her videos would seem to represent an a very specific aspect of fan intervention: they’re specifically tributes to a fictional character, and not the actress who plays her, and stand almost in defiance of the show on which the character lives. In her YouTube profile, BensonLover99 says SVU is her favorite TV show, but with her videos seem to saying, “SVU is putting this character to waste. I’m going to give Olivia Benson the show she really deserves.”