Hey, women. You know when you get home after a long day at work, you switch on the telly, pour yourself a drink and settle on the sofa for a cosy night in? Well don’t, because YOU’RE NOT SAFE.
That’s right, even in your own home, the place where you should feel protected and nurtured, you’re prey to a malign, manipulative brute of a stranger who will invade your body while you are drugged and unconscious.
Welcome to the grotesque world of Liar (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen last week’s episode then save this column until later.) We’re all used to seeing women in peril, usually tied to chairs in warehouses, but there’s something sick-makingly insidious about the fear that spreads like a stain through Harry and Jack Williams’s drama about a woman, Laura (Joanne Froggatt), who’s drugged and raped by a suave surgeon, Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd), after a date.
No one believes her. Now, clearly, no respectable channel would or should ever make a “he said/ she said” drama about rape where the woman turned out to be a liar because it’s socially irresponsible. Though that didn’t stop Liar making us think early on that Laura could be making it all up.
But it’s added a layer of visceral fear-mongering where it effectively turns to its female audience and shouts, “This could be you!” Not even the emotionally barren outer reaches of Luther and The Fall ever felt quite so wheedlingly unpleasant as Liar.
Andrew is a bogeyman, an almost supernatural sexual predator to whom locked doors mean nothing. He can get any woman he wants; all he has to do is steal into her flat, drug her and then she’s his plaything.
She’s powerless. She can’t even speak up in her own defence because she can’t remember her attack.
He did this in last week’s episode with the detective who’d headed the inquiry into Laura’s rape complaint – which was later dropped, so Laura goes a bit crazy in this week’s episode because that’s what women do, isn’t it? After asking the detective, Ness, on a date when she turned up at his house to tell him that she knows he really is a rapist, he found out where she lived, drugged her drink, waited until she returned home and drank it, then he crept in when she was unconscious to rape her.
The unspoken message being, if he can do that to a clever police officer, just think what he can do to you, thicko non-police woman. Add to this hideous, sick stew the fact that she’s in the very early stages of pregnancy and you have a cabinet of horrors that I can’t bear to go into, and another message: women, you can’t even keep your unborn children safe from men. Because they will get you. Every time.
Men, surely this isn’t what you want to see? Is there a single one of you that wants your gender portrayed in such a way on a mainstream drama on a major television channel? Andrew’s motivations remain unclear, though there’s a hint in this week’s episode that he has mother issues.
Yes, that old thing, a woman is to blame for his brutality towards women. Everything is our fault, we should know this by now. What I can’t bear about Liar is that its female characters have no dominion over their emotions and, most importantly, over their own bodies. This is not a message I want to take away from any drama.