Netflix’s “Unbelievable” tackles sexual assault
Alexis Rapoza, Asst. Opinions Editor
It’s a story that is all too familiar. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstien trials, we have become accostomed to stories of sexual assault and miscarriages of justice. “Unbelievable” is Netflix’s brand new miniseries with a total of eight episodes and clocking in at an hour for each, it is not like Netflix’s previous miniseries endeavors. However, “Unbelievable” joins one other Netflix Original series that highlighted a serious topic and was handled with nuance and care. Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” is a four part miniseries based on the wrongful convictions of 5 teenagers in 1989. DuVernay tackled racism and wrongful convictions with grace and realism without sacrificing entertainment value. Like “When They See Us”, “Unbelievable” tackles another true crime case that shocked the nation.
Based on The Marshall Project and ProPublica’s groundbreaking Pulitzer Prize winning piece “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”, “Unbelievable” tackles the 2008 rape of 18 year old Marie Adler, played by “Booksmart”`s Kaitlyn Dever, who was assaulted in her apartment. After being forced to retell her story repeatedly, the police compiled a list of inconsistencies that led to her being pressured into recanting, charging her with a misdemeanor of false reporting. Colorado Detectives Stacy Galbraith and Edna Hendershot, renamed in the miniseries as Detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall, work to uncover what they soon discover is a serial rapist who victimized over 25 girls. Toni Collette plays experienced Detective Grace Rasmussen with passion and is able to humanize a character who could have very easily fallen into the “hardened detective” stereotype. Her costar, Merritt Wever, plays Karen Duvall, a mother and wife who is dedicated and sympathetic to the victims.
Both Collette and Wever shine as the two vastly different and unlikely teammates which is a testament to the fantastic writing by Susannah Grant, best known for her work on the film “Erin Brockovich” and the true story of the two detectives who inspired the series. Collette and Wever’s on screen chemistry is incredible and their mentor-mentee relationship is more than believable. Also, the dynamic between the male and female detectives brings up a interesting conversation about the way our justice system handles sexual assault cases. “Unbelievable” does what it’s Netflix originals counterpart “Thirteen Reasons Why” failed to do, it handled a topic as serious as sexual assault with incredible realism and never once glorified the trauma the victims experienced.
“Unbelievable” comes at a time when a lot of people will claim that Netflix is capitalizing off the #MeToo movement but I have to disagree. Stories like Marie’s need to be told as this is something that millions of women experience in their lifetime. As long as these stories continue to be told with as much care as showcased in “Unbelievable” then I hope Netflix continues to produce moving and compassionate material like this in its upcoming releases.