Tomorrow night will see the conclusion of ITV’s six part rape drama, Liar. Since this blog will be looking at the series and specifically what it has to say about rape, if this is a sensitive subject or a trigger for you then you may want to skip this particular post. I have no intentions of upsetting or offending anyone but this is a series about rape victims and how they are portrayed within society and it is difficult to discuss the show without also addressing the show’s message, so please be prepared for discussion of rape culture ahead.
For those curious but too busy to watch, Liar concerns Laura, a high school teacher who goes on a date with doctor and parent, Andrew. Andrew seems like the perfect man; he’s kind, funny and intelligent and the date goes swimmingly. At the end of the date, Andrew’s phone dies and Laura allows him to come up to the flat in order to call for a taxi. A couple of glasses of wine later and Andrew and Laura end up spending the night together…except Laura wakes up feeling sick and unable to remember chunks of the night before. But one thing she does remember is that she said ‘no’.
What follows is Laura’s attempts to convince friends and family and the police that she is telling the truth. But Andrew’s upstanding character proves hard to crack and she becomes increasingly frustrated at the ability of the police and the law to provide the justice she seeks. Instead she turns to her own methods; posting about Andrew online, sneaking into his home to search for clues and even attempting to drug and frame him for a second attack. These actions wind up doing more harm than good, hurting Laura’s case against Andrew when no evidence turns up to incriminate him.
Worse yet, Laura’s own past makes the case against Andrew seem like the actions of, at best, a mentally ill woman, or at worst, an attention-seeking harlot. Truth of course is more complicated, but the mere fact that Laura had previously dropped a case of inappropriate sexual behaviour against a former headmaster is enough to have the case against Andrew thrown out completely. Laura continues her own investigation though, uncovering other women Andrew has raped though they are unwilling to speak out. With no evidence and no witnesses, Laura struggles to find a way to catch Andrew, while at the same time he files a lawsuit against her, claiming defamation of character.
This is all a case of dramatic irony, as we the audience are privy to the knowledge that Andrew did indeed drug Laura and that she is telling the truth. And we also witness him rape one of the detectives working his case. And it’s around here that I felt the show began to slip into the absurd. I don’t have a problem with Andrew being a rapist. In fact, I said to my wife after the first episode that he had to have committed the crime, otherwise the show would be painting Laura as a liar, which would only validate the opinion some people have that rape victims in some way misunderstood the situation or wanted it at the time and then came to regret it later. The show couldn’t support that viewpoint, so Andrew had to be a rapist.
My problem is mainly how Andrew’s character changes once the show reveals that he is a rapist. I don’t mean that Andrew is too nice in the beginning to be a rapist and that they should have painted him as an asshole from the start. Nice guys can harbour dark, hidden secrets. I mean how he suddenly becomes a lot more brazen. When he rapes Laura, there’s a lot of distraction and deception. They have a whole date and he acts the perfect gentleman and then he tricks her into allowing him to come up to her flat where he drugs her. There’s a lot of planning to make it seem like a good date and that she choose for him to come up to her home.
Conversely, the detective comes around to his house to tell him that the case has been dropped and he invites her in for a drink. Now we the audience know what that implies and the detective herself is understandably wary. But it also doesn’t seem to fit his pattern. Andrew’s methods are subtle and leave an opening for doubt, but how did he plan to swing this one? Raping the detective in his own, a member of the police force that was investigating him, is really on the nose and shows zero forethought.
For one, DI Vanessa Harmon is a lesbian, and her detective partner would be able to attest to her commitment to her spouse with whom she was having a child, and her unwillingness to likely sleep with a former suspect. And on that point, the rape of a member of the police force would cause his case to likely be reopened because two allegations within a short space of time would throw up serious red flags, especially, sorry to say, because one of those victims was a police officer herself. Her allegation would have a lot more weight behind it. Inviting her into his home is just really stupid and on the nose, especially for a rapist who had been shown to be more devious and smart than this already.
Of course, some of that does happen anyway, because Vanessa is raped later when Andrew sneaks into her house and drugs her juice. However, since there is no indication that Andrew was at her house it’s harder to tie him to rape at all. This seems much more like Andrew’s usual M.O. but it’s weird that it’s plan B. It’s also concerning what advice the show seems to be giving to rape victims. The events of the series suggest that law won’t help rape victims, unless they’re a police officer or a member of the law themselves. So the best course of action is to act outside the law.
This sort of vigilantism is dangerous and so far it hasn’t paid off for Laura but she’s been shown to be more satisfied with her own results than that of the law. While I agree that the law needs to do more to for rape victims and that public perception needs to change in regards to how we attribute blame, I would be cautious about leading women into taking justice into their own hands. Laura’s plan to frame Andrew almost works, had she just tied his ropes a little better, but it could also have went fatally wrong for her had the detective not shown up. The revenge fantasy may make for some exciting viewing but in real life we need to work on bettering the law surrounding this issue, not spurring women on to violence.
As I said, it was a difficult subject this week. If you stuck with me, thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts and views on the matter, and you can share them either by commenting below or though social media links to the right. Also to the right is the follow button to keep up with new blog posts, or you can hit up the archive to read previous posts. And if at the end of that you’re still found wanting, you can read my own fiction novel, Carrion Youth, over at swoonreads.com.