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Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever) in a scene from "Unbelievable" on Netflix.

Women are frequently not taken seriously by many people, from doctors to police officers, it’s nothing new but it’s time for a change. Today, these issues are being brought to light through many sources, including TV. Netflix’s “Unbelievable” was released on Sept. 13 and is unlike any other crime drama. 

The show is a provocative and brutally honest portrayal of a series of rapes based on true events in Washington and Colorado. The story centers around 18-year-old Marie Adler, who is violently raped in her own home by a seemingly experienced attacker. When she reports the crime, the responding officers believe her story is inconsistent and eventually convince her to say that she lied about being raped at all. In a shocking turn of events, she’s then sued for falsely reporting a crime, and her life begins to unravel.  

While the Los Angeles Times praises it for its honest and unglamorized depiction of rape, this isn’t the only important aspect of the show. It probably hits close to home for any woman who’s ever been questioned if what she’s saying is the truth. 

Because the show is based on a true story, the characters are fully fledged without playing into any of the stereotypical flat depictions of women so often portrayed in media. Two of the most striking characters in the series are the female detectives who work tirelessly to bring justice to the survivors of the serial rapist that was eventually found to be involved in Marie’s case. Karen Duvall and Grace Rasmussen are the detectives who finally catch the perpetrator. Despite being detectives first and foremost, these women are shown from all sides — whether it be their marriages or spirituality — and they receive the character development that they deserve. 

Duvall and Rasmussen believe Marie and the other victims throughout the show. They face constant argument from another male detective who claims that Marie is lying. Because they are shown as fully-fledged people, this helps to explain how and why they come to believe Marie and the other victims.

Similarly, Marie’s character isn’t just a rape survivor; she’s an 18-year-old girl who’s been through the foster care system and experienced horrible traumas before she was old enough to even have the words for what happened to her. One of the most profound scenes in the show occurs between her and her ex-boyfriend. She wants to get back together but finds out that his family doesn’t approve of her because of their religious beliefs. She’s heartbroken and begs him to get back together. This scene could have easily been omitted, but it’s important for bringing life to Marie’s character and making her more relatable and tangible to the viewers. The show focuses on how Marie is not believed by many authority figures, and centers around this. Despite this fact, while the detectives are working to solve her case, she is also given time to develop as a character worthy of empathy. This brings the audience in more and encourages them to root for her and her path towards justice.

Netflix’s “Unbelievable” couldn’t have come at a better time. It portrays violence against women in a way that’s survivor-centered rather than violence-centered. It’s also particularly profound because it shows the pleas for help from a survivor being continuously ignored, eventually derailing her life. Despite this, due justice is received, and the final episode of the series brings solace to all characters in a way that’s both satisfying and refreshing. Despite the show’s main subject matter, that’s not what lies at its core. According to Independent Uk, It’s a way of bringing resolution to the real-life survivors involved in a way that they actually find helpful, which is so often not the case for true stories turned into TV series. This show is one of many other sources trying to bring a voice to those who are often ignored. 

In a time of movements such as Me Too, this is necessary. This show is about much more than violence against women, but it should act as a reminder to viewers to check in on their friends and loved ones. Far too often, survivors don’t feel comfortable reporting violence because they’re afraid of not being believed, which is exactly what happened to Marie. It’s a reminder that violence can be random and from strangers. Despite the sense of security many people may feel, this is still a time where violence is widely occurring and accepted. Shows such as “Unbelievable” are the stepping stones along the way to women being taken seriously by many authorities, but there’s still a long way to go.  

Georgia Leipold-Vitiello is a freshman media arts and design major. Contact her at leipolge@dukes.jmu.edu.