Failing to Suspend My Disbelief

Lazy writers on long-running TV shows are giving me the stabbies quite often, but this particular one is still irritating me after a whole week, so it must be aired.

When Dr Nikki Alexander, cool-calm-collected forensic scientist, realises that she’s alone with someone she’s just deduced is the murderer, and tries to leave but he chases her into the garden, how plausible do you find this scenario:

(a) she runs into the garden (large tree-shrub-lawn garden)
(b) she hides in the garden shed, which has a single point of entry/exit
(c) surrounded by sharp things, heavy things and toxic things, she does not pick a single one up
(d) when murderer enters the shed, she still does not grab a sharp/heavy/toxic thing
(e) when murderer rushes towards her, she still does not grab a sharp/heavy/toxic thing
(f) is eventually rescued from murderer’s attempt to strangle her by da boyz from da police.

Ok, I was saying WTF? when she hid in the shed. The garden had plenty of cover with all the large shrubs and she probably could have found a heavy branch. But then I thought, hey, at least the shed is full of potential items she can defend herself with, and then she can go back out in the garden with a weapon. But noooooo, not in Lazy-writer Land. Girlies are there to be rescued, and must be shown as completely helpless by being shown as completely clueless.

Nikki walked right past the garden fork and the spade, right past the secateurs and the branch-loppers, right past the bug-sprays full of strong acids and alkaline liquids that could be blinding, right past the bag of lime powder that could be blinding, and just hid in a corner like an idiot. She didn’t even throw a clay flowerpot at him!

Ok, she’s a small woman and he’s a much bigger guy. Maybe having grabbed a few sharp/heavy/toxic things to jab and chuck at him wouldn’t be enough, and she would still be overcome and need rescuing in the end. I could have bought that. But for fuck’s sake don’t ask me to believe that an intelligent, educated resourceful woman with an intimate scientific knowledge of the body’s most vulnerable points wouldn’t at least have had a fucking go.

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism, medicine, violence

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9 replies

  1. I know what you mean. Sometimes the myth of the helpless female can be hard to sell, and suddenly you get a good look at the bigotry of the men behind the curtain.

  2. It was the season finale, too – so that’s the image of Dr Nikki that people will have in their head until the next episodes. Total FAIL.

  3. What is the show? I’m always up for a forensic show, even if it gets lame.

  4. It’s the latest series of Silent Witness, with the eminently watchable Emilia Fox as Nikki Alexander (the major female character since the departure of Amanda Burton’s Sam Ryan).
    I noticed a distinct swing this season away from Nikki as a strong leader character. This may in part be due to them pushing her too hard as a leader when she first came on board – she is far too young to be the leader of a team with a much more experienced pathologist in it, especially when that older character is very popular with the audience – that would still have been an issue even if the older character were female rather than male, but being male exacerbates the disbelief of that situation. If they wanted a woman character to come in where Sam Ryan went out, they needed to cast someone at least 10 years older. But correcting that error shouldn’t mean that Nikki suddenly becomes clueless when last season she was super-competent.

  5. Yes I found the initial episodes with Emilia Fox wonderful- even better than the original series. I wonder if it is significant that her strength has waned in parallel with the introduction of some sexual tension with Harry?

  6. After watching it, hubby declared that it was all getting too silly and we agreed that we wouldn’t be watching it again. We both couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t try to at least hit him with something.

  7. It’s also part of a larger problem with forensic examiner and profiler shows – what on earth was she doing out there asking witnesses questions in the first place? The forensic folks in these shows generally are now shown doing way too much primary detective work. That is not their bloody job!
    Originally these shows had most of the forensic deduction taking place in the lab and actually at the crime scene. Those days of plausibility are long gone. I can understand that in LazyProducer/LazyHeadOfProgramming land the idea is to spice up the shows with the major protagonists coming into more frequent conflict with perps, but in real life it just doesn’t happen that way, and we miss out on the best bits of the puzzle-solving that used to make these shows so satisfying. If it’s too unbelievable their target audience (people who like a puzzle) simply will not watch it.

  8. True. Anyone getting that involved in the case would probably a) get their butt kicked by the police and b) stuff up the case so that the police were unable to secure a conviction.
    The new Amanda Burton miniseries looks much better.

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