Why do dramas only want to scare women?

It’s not fun and it’s not the reason most of us turn on our televisions, says Alison Graham


Women! You know when you were little, and your mum had to assure you that, no, there were no monsters living under your bed and she even bent down to have a look, just to make sure, before you would even countenance shutting your eyes? Well, your mum was wrong. Monsters DO live under your bed, even though you are all grown up and have a home of your own. So you’d better check before you go to sleep in case there’s someone down there who’s going to kill you. And the monsters aren’t crocodiles who want to bite off your toes, they are murderous men in dark clothing.


It’s true, I saw it in Luther last week. A woman arrives home, sits on her bed to take off her shoes, then gets under the covers. After a few seconds the soundtrack blares with a loud, dissonant chord and – a man slides out from under the bed! Admittedly it’s a shocking moment, I actually jumped, which was presumably the desired effect. Thanks BBC! Then he stands over his prone and defenceless victim before killing her and adding various fetishy touches to her body – posing, adding a mask, the usual TV serial killing stuff.

I realise now, of course, that it’s only you and I who get het up about this kind of thing because it’s only a drama, isn’t it BBC? It’s not actually real. Even Luther star Idris Elba said in RT the other week that Luther bore no relation to reality. So that’s all fine, move along, there’s nothing to see here. Until the next TV serial killer arrives with his ropes, his masks, his gaffer tape, his weirdness and his misogynist baggage.

So we’ve established that it’s only us that minds, only us who once again feel the bubbling outrage at television’s determination to make women feel unsafe in the place that they should feel safest, their own homes. The Fall? Remember that? The killer (another strangler with an impressive killing kit) popped in and out of his victims’ houses with almost supernatural ease. Lock up all you want, ladies, you can’t keep out the bad guys. They are coming to get you, to tape up your mouth and bind you.

In the second episode of Luther the killer hides in a wardrobe (your mum told you there were no monsters in your wardrobe too, didn’t she?) after, again, nipping into his latest potential victim’s house. Watch yourselves, women, the streets, it seems, are teeming with psychopaths clutching goody-bags of murder accoutrements just looking for a way into your house.

Oh, and by the way, if you are murdered by a TV serial killer, it will be your fault because the killer has deep-seated issues with women, specifically, his mother.

In Luther the killer’s mother was a prostitute and he watched her have sex with a succession of men. Bingo! There it is: blame mum, TV serial killer, your first interaction with horrible womankind. The horrible womankind that goes on to reject you sexually and emotionally throughout your life because you are such a jagged mess. Boo hoo! No woman is innocent, the TV serial killer wants to strangle then artfully pose every single one of us because we are all to blame with everything that’s gone wrong in his life.

Can this all just stop right now, please? It’s not fun and it’s not the reason most of us turn on our televisions. There’s so much violence against women in real life and too much imagined, wished-for violence, as we’ve learned from the estimable campaign to remove Facebook pages that delight in rape and misogynist violence. So can we all have a break from TV’s fictional female subjugation and death? Really, it’s time.