TV rape drama is a yawn

Daily Express - - NEWS -

WHAT makes a good TV drama? Be­liev­able characters, plot de­vel­op­ment, great di­a­logue. All essential. But a lot of what’s on tele­vi­sion now seems to have been com­mis­sioned so that, as the cred­its roll, some­one can say: “If you have been af­fected by any of the is­sues in­volved…” Then you’ll be di­rected to a web­site to share your pain. TV drama has be­come a branch of so­cial ser­vices.

Shake­speare could get the same treat­ment. Ham­let: “De­pressed, aim­less? Can’t stick your mother’s new part­ner? Phone this number.” Romeo And Juliet: “Par­ents won’t have your boyfriend in the house? Visit this web­site.” You get the idea. Ev­ery­thing is all about ishoos and ev­ery­thing is all about you.

ITV’s Liar by Jack and Harry Wil­liams (they also wrote The Miss­ing) is is­sue-led drama. Laura (Joanne Frog­gatt) says she is the vic­tim of date rape, An­drew (Ioan Gruf­fudd) says it was con­sen­sual. Is she a flake? Or is dishy sur­geon An­drew not the Mr Per­fect he seems to be? It’s her word against his.

But fun­nily enough when you look at the list of web­sites touted by ITV for those af­fected by the is­sues, they are all (apart from the Sa­mar­i­tans) pri­mar­ily for women. Rape Cri­sis, Women’s Aid, the Na­tional Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Helpline and The Sur­vivors Trust. Where’s the help for men who are the vic­tims of false ac­cu­sa­tions? Men like Bar­tolomeo Joly de Lot­biniere who was found not guilty of rap­ing a wo­man at York Univer­sity; like 21-year-old Ge­orge Owen, also found not guilty, whose al­leged vic­tim de­scribed re­port­ing him to the po­lice as “so fun”; like the taxi driver who was cleared of as­sault­ing a drunk fe­male pas­sen­ger.

For de­spite ini­tial at­tempts to por­tray Laura as a needy fan­ta­sist, it looks as though (and ad­mit­tedly I haven’t seen all the episodes) the drama is now going down the ohso-pre­dictable route of mak­ing her the vic­tim and An­drew the preda­tor. Be­cause all men are rapists right?

Harry Wil­liams ex­plained: “Be­fore we took the script to any­one we took it to coun­sel­lors and we showed it to ev­ery­one in the of­fice, the women who worked there, to say, ‘God is this OK? Does any­thing sound wrong to you?’” Per­haps as a re­sult none of the characters feel real. They are all empty ves­sels in a class­less, Ikeast­yled limbo. They don’t have a past or a hin­ter­land. It’s all fas­tid­i­ously on-mes­sage – even the mixe­drace marriage of Laura’s sis­ter seems like an­other box ticked.

Per­haps the writ­ers should skip the coun­sel­lors and the vet­ting by the women in the of­fice and trust their in­stincts. Liar is a rape story and I feel I’ve seen it all be­fore. I’d pre­fer a story about peo­ple.

A NEW breed of gi­ant rat has been found which is four times big­ger than your bog-stan­dard rat. For­tu­nately it lives in the Solomon Is­lands. Let’s hope it stays there.

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