‘Unbelievable’ : Struggles Within Our Justice System

Tradd Stover

‘Unbelievable’ as a film series is wonderfully crafted and details two distinct storylines involving rape cases. In the first, Marie is raped but struggles to remember the details; therefore she is charged for filing a false report. In the second, two detectives work on rape cases from different Colorado counties. These two end up linking as one man has committed the crimes on both sides, finally resolving Marie’s case. This is a broad-stroke overview that I felt could not be left out. Characterization in this series was done to perfection as I was able to connect the details of the instances on screen to real world issues.

Marie is the main protagonist and she grows up a victim for many different reasons: she is in the foster care system, she is abused, etc. She is battered for so long that she is left with no self-worth, no confidence, and no sense of direction in life. That is why after she experiences this horrific assault, she feels like what she says or testifies about will never matter to anyone. It is extremely sad to watch her progress through life alone and desperate, especially in a time when she simply needed one person to believe her. She is run down by detectives to the point that she does not care what happens to her, she just wants it all to be over. The scene where she is in the interrogation room is miserable to watch. I saw two men, who try to come off like they care, running this girl into the ground. Their effort is lazy as they refuse to listen for the truth, simply due to lack of convenience.

Marie’s situation is sharply contrasted by the second strain of protagonists, two hard-nose yet caring detectives. In the second episode, the viewer is introduced to Detective Duvall. She is helpful, strong, and relentless in achieving justice for the victims she is fighting for. She seems to understand the trauma that is caused by something like this and does not dwell on the fact that the victim(Amber) may twist a few details.

This series portrays, to the best of its ability, what it feels like to be someone that no one else believes. Honestly, I had never thought of rape victims in the way that they were portrayed here, or maybe I hoped that it was not this bad. Marie has enough internal struggle already without having something like this happen to her. At first, when I watched the first episode, I thought I had figured the title out. This girl’s testimony is ‘unbelievable’ because her story does not add up, she keeps changing it. However, I learned quickly that the only thing that was ‘unbelievable’ was the behavior of everybody else in her life, especially the detectives.

Marie’s inner struggle is really important in understanding what is taking place throughout the series. She has no-one around her to whom she can go to with an honest mind and tongue. For some of the screen time, I kept wondering why she could not just be honest. I even called my girlfriend to tell her the story because I just could not wrap my head around it. I understood the tolls on her life that her past had created. I also understood how frustrating it was for her when no-one in her life would listen. Yet, I still waited and wished for the detectives to be right about it all, to have been the ones using the right judgement. However, to no surprise, I was wrong.

I do not really know what to compare this to in terms of what he have read throughout the semester. In a way, I kind of see how the rigid but seemingly ‘fair’ system created in “The Furies” comes into play here. In the play, something is ultimately true because other people believe that to be the case. It could be something that is actually as far away from the truth as possible, but because the deciding vote is yes, the verdict is yes. In this instance, the truth is determined by the people in power. Detective Parker uses his status to get whatever answer he needs from Marie, with no regard for the life he is ruining. In contrast, Duvall and Rasmussen use their positions to fight for the weak, to obtain the truest from of justice for the victims.

In terms of what the series does for me as a narrative, I saw it in some ways as a justified rage against the system (which I am usually annoyed by). However, this series is refreshing because it introduces a better way for things to be done. At the end, Marie gets a lawyer who is all for getting her the biggest amount of money from the city as possible. It was beautiful to see how he believed in her and genuinely wanted to help her. Marie’s hope in society and in herself is renewed because of a system that does what it claims to do. Too much in our justice system, that feat is not achieved.

Overall, this is a really rewarding series to watch. Embarrassingly, it made me tear up a few times both out of sadness and anger. I am happy that I chose ‘Unbelievable’.

One thought on “‘Unbelievable’ : Struggles Within Our Justice System”

  1. Thanks for these thoughtful reflections on watching this series. And in a lot of ways I am in complete agreement that there is no text we read in this course that quite gets at what this show gets at, even if Marie’s story does inform my sense of what’s behind Paulina’s rage and total lack of trust in the justice system in Death and the Maiden. What’s most difficult for me about that first episode is that Detective Parker *isn’t* exactly lazy, nor is he entirely cynical or hateful or even sexist (his partner is another story) – and he still messes things up in ways that have absolutely devastating consequences for Marie for years.
    There’s really nothing more powerful about an aesthetic text than its ability to get us to examine our own desires as readers/viewers/listeners. It sounds like that’s exactly what this series did for you, which is a testament to your receptivity as well as to the show itself.

    Like

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