Television is a pretty constant thing these days. You’re hard pushed to find an hour where you aren’t watching this rerun of a drama, or that premiere of a new comedy series. With the addition of online programming and catch-up, TV’s got you surrounded good and proper. Not in a bad way: sort of like a comforting, fuzzy hug.
So it’s certainly a good thing that there’s the occasional programme set to really put some morals questions out there and put the world to rights. There’s only so much hedonistic medieval sex (cough, GOT, cough) and so many laugh-a-minute American sitcoms a single person can take in, after all.
A good example of how television can be used for moralistic means is BBC Three’s recent one-off drama, Murdered By My Boyfriend. The programme was based on a real-life story of a teenage girl (Ashley, played by Georgina Campbell) falling for a man (Reece, played by Royce Pierreson), becoming pregnant, and of the ensuing domestic violence. BBC Three did a fantastic job with the content, intentionally creating a stir around the topic. A quick Twitter search brings up countless tweets from viewers who were shocked and deeply affected by the drama; this is television with a purpose.
The sometimes graphic nature of Murdered By My Boyfriend was incredibly uncomfortable to watch. The use of sound, especially the repeated and singular use of the all too familiar iPhone ringtone, was deeply effective and so familiar it caused the viewer to feel the tightening in Ashley’s chest. The sheer horror of Ashley’s final moments were delivered so beautifully that it made the gruesome reality all the more affecting. Inserts of times counting up from the day the pair met were used to structure the story, and at the end interwove with statistics around domestic violence in absolute silence; just text on a screen, and we were hooked. Television has the innate power to do good, and to show us right from wrong.
However, for all the power, it all too often isn’t the dominant form of entertainment. The adaptation of “real life” stories can affect the drama; characterisation and scripting were issues throughout. Ashley’s story was heart-breaking, but in a one-off drama, there’s almost no time to get to know the character before the conclusion. There’s no connection to the girl she was, which ultimately could affect just how we interact with her. Similarly, a one-off necessitates that everything happen at once. To get a point across, such as with a drama with this intent, one-offs are pretty ideal; but in the same way, we don’t create so strong a link as we would with a full, or even mini- series. The pay-off lies in the fact that the longer the duration, the harder it is to claw back audiences.
Despite the issues dramas of this nature have, there’s little faulting the intention or the performance given by Campbell. The graphic and frank tone taken by the BBC with this production shows just how television can be the opposite to the monster it’s painted to be whenever “the media” is mentioned in throwaway tones in political conversation. Murdered By My Boyfriend shows us the reality of domestic violence; and it’s a shocking one worth paying attention to.
Watch Murdered By My Boyfriend on iPlayer.