I need a ‘safe space’, I thought while listening to last night’s episode of The Archers. The hideous, infamous Rob is turning the screws on poor Helen and it is not comfortable listening.
Laura Keynes explained before what we suspect is the motivation behind this tale of subtle domestic abuse, manipulation and all-round vileness but I just want to say, as much as I resent saying it, that is it a very good storyline.
In sum, Helen Archer is sleeping with the enemy, as Julia Roberts had the misfortune to do in Sleeping with the Enemy. The enemy in this case is Rob Titchner who seeks to control, dominate and ultimately destroy the helpless Helen.
What makes this storyline so good is its believability. Sadly, manipulative charmers like Rob are all around us. What makes them so credible is that they believe their own lies. The façade they construct around them is ‘total’.
At one point last night, Helen stood up to Rob for what I suspect will be the last time. In the next scene as Rob comes home and as closes the door my own heart sank. I felt my stomach drop and dreaded what he was going to say – as if Rob was coming through my own door!
I used to mock people who posted baby grows to the fictional newborns in soap operas, or flowers to dead fictional characters. Who are these nutters I thought?! And here I was essentially shaking at an entirely fictional character on the radio. Rob is horrifying and the storyline addictive.
Rob doubled down on the pregnant Helen last night, admonishing her for making a decision contrary to his wishes and advice. “You are not strong, how could you risk another breakdown compromising your health and that of the baby?” He storms out, telling her not to wait up. Truly this scene should be used in ‘how to spot domestic violence training’.
All will be resolved at Christmas as is The Archers way. I know that this baby will not survive. I suspect the writers will not incur the total wrath of the listeners by killing off Helen, so ultimately it will be the evil Rob who gets his comeuppance and good riddance too.
But ‘his baby’, who was probably conceived through rape, is marked for death too. They have already had the 12 week scan and Rob remarked ‘it looks so much like a baby’. That is it, I thought – the baby will have to go too, either through a late miscarriage or (I would not put it past them) a late abortion.
My Twitter Archers feed refers to this fictional baby as Rosemary’s Baby, or the spawn of Satan. Because this is how we view children conceived through rape, is it not, as less than human and unworthy of our sympathy? If they were conceived in evil, then they themselves must be evil too.
It is this kind of biological determinism that we leave at the door of those conceived through rape. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t fair. None of us can control how we were conceived.
So I would like Helen and her unborn baby to survive and Rob to end up in a slurry tank but I doubt it. I will keep listening, however, hoping against hope that hope survives.