TV lovers were thrilled when all three seasons of The Fall landed on Netflix this month. The drama, originally aired on the BBC, was hugely popular when it premiered in 2013 – partly thanks to its leading stars Gillian Anderson as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson and Jamie Dornan as psychopathic serial killer Paul Spector.
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But despite its success, including BAFTA wins and glowing reviews, the programme also sparked an element of debate and criticism that considered whether the plot ‘glamorised’ violence. Around the time the show was first shown, one TV critic, Terence Blacker, mused that the first series depicted scenes of abuse and killing of women as a “sexual experience […] without any crudely explicit detail.” An opinion piece in the Guardian noted that the three-series drama was “in the business of glamorising violence against women by equating it not only with sex, but with sexual attractiveness.”
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Jamie as psychopath Paul Spector
However, the show’s creator, Allan Cubbitt, was keen to defend his work. Writing in the Guardian, he explained that he considered the premise of having women as victims of sexual violence, but was keen to explore the psyche behind a psychopath. “I was at pains from the start to make sure that there was nothing gratuitous or exploitative in the drama. Sexual killers eroticise violence, power and death, so it’s a challenging line to walk, and different people will have different reactions to the drama,” he wrote.
Gillian Anderson played detective Stella Gibson
Allan also noted that his drama wasn’t the first to portray such themes. “Violence against women, often graphic, has been part of TV drama for a very long time.” The writer, who also worked on other popular crime drama Prime Suspect 2, also added that having Gillian Anderson as the lead made the dynamic of exploring violence against women more prevalent. “Having a female protagonist made it possible to articulate, through her, various ideas about male violence against women that seemed important to me.”
Meanwhile, leading actor Jamie appeared on This Morning this week, briefly noting that playing Paul Spector affected his future roles in comedy acting. “I always thought I’d do comedy early on [in my career],” the 38-year-old began. “And then I played a psychopath and nobody really thought of me in a comedic way. So I’ve been trying to get back to that a wee bit.”
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