Love Hurts on 'Law & Order' and in Real Life

An episode inspired by Chris Brown and Rihanna exposes the blurry line between reality and entertainment.

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While watching the "My Funny Valentine" and taking notes on all the scenes where love and its inherent difficulties were mentioned, I couldn't help thinking of a particular scene in ABC's hit Scandal. You know, the one where Olivia Pope finally breaks if off with Edison, the nice-guy senator.  

"I want painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love. Don't you want that, too?" says Olivia.

"Love is not supposed to be painful or devastating. Love isn't supposed to hurt, Liv," says Edison before leaving, perhaps for good.

The thing is, it's not just Olivia Pope, a fictional character on a wildly addictive TV show, who wants "painful, difficult, devastating." We all do. Or, more specifically, we all want to watch that, whether it's on TV or in real life. And in a marketplace where reality and fiction are purposely conflated by the real people who define themselves as brands, the distinction between what is ideal and what is idolized no longer matters as long as consumers stay brand-loyal.

So the message at the end of the Law & Order: SVU episode was a mixed one. In the end, Caleb and Micha, back together in Bermuda, get into one final fight. The next morning, Micha's lifeless body is found floating in the water near their yacht. The show never actually shows what happened. Nobody saw anything, but we're all watching.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter. 

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