TV rape drama is a yawn
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.