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Anna-Lou Weatherley on The Fall

Undoubtedly one of the best things on telly recently has been the critically acclaimed edge-of-your-seat BBC2 crime drama series, The Fall, starring Gillian Anderson as the enigmatic DCI Stella Gibson. I’m not going to bang on about how utterly cheated I felt by the final episode – rather arrogant of the BBC to leave everyone waiting for another series – or the fact that much has been made in the press of it providing another excuse to portray depraved misogyny and violence against women on TV for little more than voyeuristic purpose. My slight rub with this compelling bit of TV was Gibson’s character herself. There’s no denying Anderson’s acting skills; in my opinion the aloof and driven Gibson has been her finest hour (even usurping Scully). In keeping with another ‘female at the helm’ crime drama series, Prime Suspect starring the inimitable Helen Mirren, Gibson has been written as a ball-breaking, childless sexual predator who eschews the conventional idea of a loving relationship for the odd ‘sweet night’ instead. Nothing wrong in that if that’s your bag, but while Gibson looks aesthetically pleasing to the eye (quite loving the open blouses and pencil skirt combos, have to say, sort of Mad Men for The Met), my objection, if you can call it that, is the message seems to be that in order for a woman to be portrayed as strong and capable she must display the characteristics of a man; think like one; act like one and well, fuck like one. Gibson is portrayed as a sexual predator who screws married colleagues without even taking her

skirt off, the female equivalent of the zipless fuck and we as women, it seems are supposed to commend her for it. While I rate Anderson’s acting skills (sure she’ll be relieved), she has virtually carried the whole series single handed, I can’t help thinking that it would have been far more challenging to portray her as a married mother of one who partook in tender and passionate love-making with her other half while holding down an extremely high rank in the police force. Quite clearly the message to women is you can’t do both. The scene where Gibson is forced to divulge the details of her sexual encounter to a male colleague was telling; she was matterof-fact and to the point; she wanted sex, she asked for it, she got it. No strings. No questions. He felt uncomfortable by such a brazen display of openness from a woman. She enjoyed his discomfort. In a way this is inverted feminism; you want to admire Gibson as a fiercely independent, successful woman who has control over her emotions and desires; she gets results; she’s firm but fair; has sacrificed conventionality for her career, buys her blouses from net-a-porter and has men wanting to leave their wives for her – all happy days, but the message it delivers is simple and age old: ladies, if you want to succeed in a man’s world; you still gotta act like one.

Anna-Lou Weatherley’s new novel Wicked Wives is out soon. Follow her on twitter @annaloulondon

Anna-Lou: The Fall  

Author of Wicked Wives Anna-Lou Weatherley's response to BBC series The Fall