The problem with Netflix’s Unbelievable

T/W – This post references sexual assault.

Before I start, I want to say that despite what the title may suggest, I thought Unbelievable was brilliant.

For one, the series shows there’s no such thing as the perfect rape victim. It also highlights the lengthy and invasive procedures victims must endure in an attempt to capture their attackers. Repeating their experience over and over, unable to shower or even use the bathroom in fear of destroying evidence. And even with all this, they can’t guarantee the law will believe them.

One victim, Marie, portrayed by Kaitlyn Dever, was coerced by police officers to say she imagined her experience and was charged with filing a false report. This is despite statistics that false allegations are between 2-6% in Europe and the US and only 4% in the UK.

Even when Marie’s conviction was overturned years later, police officers were never disciplined for their actions.

Marie Adler, portrayed by Kaitlyn Dever
Marie Adler, portrayed by Kaitlyn Dever

The show also highlighted the truly sinister actions of rapists. In this case, the rapist had researched how to rape women and get away with it. He knew exactly how he might get caught and potentially discussed his research with other rapists, sharing tips to evade capture.

Because of all these amazing portrayals within the show, I feel Netflix has done it an injustice by uploading the show all at once.

I, like many I am sure, binged the whole show in desperation to figure out who the perpetrator was. However, this provides an unrealistic representation of the experience of a rape victim.

While the detectives attempt to scrape together evidence, victims are left in the dark, knowing their attacker is still anonymous and free, wondering if he will return or who he will attack next.

Through uploading all the episodes at once, the viewer is enabled to bypass the victim’s pain and suffering. For the dedicated viewer, it took eight hours or a quick google to find out the identity of the rapist. In reality, the rapes and investigation spanned three years.

Unbelievable attempted to tell the story from the victim and the detectives’ point of view. It showed how the rapes unraveled the lives of the victims and consumed the lives of the detectives, who were really scraping the barrel for evidence and leads at some points.

Through bowing to the pressure of the binge-watchers and uploading the miniseries all at once, Netflix minimised the impact of a show which had the potential to be so powerful.

I’m not saying that Netflix should have spread the series over three years, but by putting some space between the episodes may have given viewers a small insight into how the victims felt having to wait for answers and get closure on the events.


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