Inventory: “These are their stories”: 20 years of U.S. history, according to Law & Order

In the criminal justice system,” begins Law & Order‘s iconic voice-over introduction, “the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.” Between the years 1990 and 2010, these separate, yet equally important groups also tracked the preoccupations, dreads, anxieties, and news stories that consumed the American public. Future scholars who want to know what was on the minds of a nation at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st could do much worse than consulting the case files of Jack McCoy, Lennie Briscoe, Anita Van Buren, and company. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the show’s debut, these are the stories of 20 years in U.S. history according to Law & Order. [Doink doink.]

1990: AIDS and assisted suicide

Compared to what it became in later years …

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