Television – The Tourist: BBC’s new drama praised for how it handles emotional abuse

Domestic violence organisations have praised the BBC for its portrayal of emotional abuse on their new series, The Tourist. The six-part drama, which was released over New Year’s, stars Fifty Shades of Grey‘s Jamie Dornan and has been a big hit with viewers. But, despite the show’s gripping, central storyline following amnesiac Elliot Stanley (played by Dornan) as he navigates the Australian Outback all whilst being chased by a murderous hitman, it was one of the show’s subplots that really captivated those tuning in.

To recap, Dornan’s character is tailed by trainee police constable Helen Chambers, played by Danielle MacDonald (star of Netflix’s Dumplin’) who, when she’s not chasing Elliot through the Outback, is preparing for her wedding. Her fiancé Ethan Krum (played by Greg Larson) however, proves to be perhaps the biggest villain of the six-part drama, revealing himself to be emotionally abusive and controlling towards Helen as the series unfolds.

“It’s great that the coercive domestic abuse subplot in #TheTourist is bringing this behaviour to a wider audience. It’s brilliantly written and brilliantly acted,” tweeted one viewer. “‘Do you think anyone else would want you?’ The DA’s [domestic abuser] stock phrase. Hopefully it helps people get out while they can.”

While emotional abuse can take many forms, the NHS describes belittling, isolating from friends and family, unreasonable demands and controlling behaviour as just some of the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship. And, its exactly this kind of abuse that we see play out in The Tourist, which has been welcomed by domestic abuse charity, Refuge.

“Storylines about domestic abuse are extremely important in raising awareness and helping people understand the complex nature of abuse,” Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive Officer, tells Cosmopolitan UK. “In ‘The Tourist’ Ethan exhibits a pattern of emotionally abusive behaviour towards Helen, frequently belittling her and telling her she is not good enough, making her feel guilty for working, answering her phone and telling her she would have no one without him. All of these behaviours are signs of emotional abuse.”

As for why depictions of such abuse are so important on mainstream television, Davison highlights how seeing this kind of behaviour on screen can help others who find themselves in a similar position.

“Portrayals of abuse on screen can lead to women recognising that they are experiencing similar situations and reach out for support and understand that they are not alone,” Davison explains. “If you are forced to alter your behaviour because you are frightened of your partner’s reaction you may be experiencing domestic abuse.”

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