The Fall came crashing back into our lives at the end of September to remind us that not all cop shows have to be one dimensional.
The Northern Irish drama revolves around murderer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) and the woman in charge of catching him, Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson). Unlike many shows in this genre both characters are realistic people, rather than the caricatures that usually grace our screens.
Spector is a loving husband and devoted father, who also rapes and murders women, unbeknownst to anyone. Gibson is hard working woman who knows all too well the struggles that women must face to rise to where she is in her line of work.
It would be easy to cast and write a male detective to catch the “Belfast Strangler” but it is so much more interesting to have a woman with all the characteristics of that man. She is strong willed, arrogant and aware of her own sexuality, even sleeping with a young policeman.
The willingness to write and portray such a character on screen especially to an Irish and British audience has caused some media outlets to brand it as “anti-male”. If having a strong female lead makes something anti-male, I wonder what 90% of other shows are?
Gibson works tirelessly to catch the killer, even though she is doubted, judged and sexually harassed by male co workers. She does the work that her male counterparts were unable to, but her less competent co worker is allowed to take credit and make a press statement.
There can be a case made that she was not allowed to speak to the press because she did not handle herself “correctly” in the past, however the undertone that prevails is that if she were a man she would be in front of the camera.
Gillian Anderson’s talents are prominent throughout the show as she plays one of the best female characters on our television screens today. Gibson’s characteristics are regarded as acceptable in a male character but almost repulsive in a woman. When faced between saving her lover or saving the killer she just detained, she rushes to Spector. It’s an easy choice, someone she has worked tirelessly to capture or a fling, this pushes aside the idea that women form emotional bonds with anyone who shows any interest.
Towards the end of the season three premiere, Gibson is stopped by one of the victim’s husbands and asked why she didn’t struggle or fight back. This is where Stella Gibson shines as a character, and the genius of the writers and talent of Gillian Anderson come across perfectly. Her reply: “In that state of fear, she might well have been compliant. She might well have submitted. But that does not mean she consented,” is one that can teach us all a lot about consent.