Belfast Telegraph

It's time to turn off these dark tales of violence against women

By Robert McNeill

Somebody has to speak up for women. And, since they're too rubbish to do it themselves, I suppose I'll have to get on with it. I rise with thumbs in waistcoat pockets to make my case following the airing on television of Ripper Street, another television series with violence against women as its theme.

You say: "Well, obliviously it's going to feature violence against women. It's about yon Ripper."

True. I understand that. But does it have to be so lingeringly gory? I hate to sound controversial, but I do not believe the torture and murder of women counts as entertainment.

Yet it's becoming as common on our screens as car adverts. Now, here's where I let the side down and demolish my own case: I haven't seen The Ripper. Generally speaking, I don't watch television.

However, I believe this distance from the subject lends my remarks a devastating objectivity. I'll just read that last sentence back. Yes, admirable logic as usual. Put another way, I didn't get where I am today by knowing what I'm talking about.

However, I've read the outrage in the Daily Mail and, while I believe that to be a despicable organ which ought to be banned, I'm happy to believe comments therein that The Ripper is "women-hating" and deeply disturbing.

The concern echoes my own about a related subject with which I'm more familiar. When I said I didn't watch television, I wrote with forked pen. For I watch DVD box sets of television programmes and, of late, I've seen a lot of Nordic Noir.

It's not the crime I like. It's the gloom. Pessimistic characters bewildered by life, and hurt by its unfairness, are coves after my own heart. But the serial crimes against women in the likes of The Killing and, even worse, Those Who Kill - both Danish "procedurals" - are distressingly gross.

It started with yon Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and there's just no need for it. The drama doesn't require it. It's in there gratuitously and raises questions about the sadistic minds of the writers.

But, more importantly, when did this stuff become permissible on our screens? It's way beyond anything that, not so long ago, would have been branded extreme horror with a strict over-18 certificate.

It's the same everywhere nowadays. You get the feeling nobody's in charge. Nobody knows what's going on. As a result, programme makers, script-writers, comedians and so forth are running amok, whereas any decent society would imprison them without the expense of a trial.

And yet Prime Minister David Beckham, if I have the name right, still does nothing. We're in a right quandary here. You can't really clamp down on culture.

But we can surely create a moral climate in which this sort of sadism dressed up as entertainment is no longer acceptable. The Scandinavians in particular need to get their act together.

It's heinous to say, as some do, that Scandinavians are just Germans disguised as human beings. That is an insult in particular to Germans, some of whom are quite normal.

But the sadism in Nordic Noir just will not do. That it is spreading to our domestic dramas is deplorable.

When families cannot sit down on a Sunday night to watch a perfectly wholesome TV show about a serial killer, then things have come to a pretty pass.


From Belfast Telegraph