Netflix found a hit this summer with “When They See Us,” adapting a true story of a past injustice into a miniseries that addresses contemporary societal demons. Now the streaming giant is hoping to repeat that success, and perhaps some of the progress that accompanied it, with “Unbelievable.” The new limited series about rape culture in America, based on reporting from ProPublica and NPR, is set to debut on the platform this fall.
Netflix’s official synopsis reads: “When teenager Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever) files a police report claiming she’s been sexually assaulted by an intruder in her home, the investigating detectives, as well as the people closest to her, come to doubt the truth of her story. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall (Emmy winners Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) meet while investigating an eerily similar pair of intruder rapes and partner to catch a potential serial rapist.”
This story came to light in 2015, when ProPublica and The Marshall Project co-published a piece titled “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.” It goes into detail about the mental hoops through which a town was willing to jump to avoid believing a rape victim. The story led to a segment on NPR’s “This American Life,” titled “Anatomy of a Doubt.” Controversy over the way sexual assault victims are treated in America has not exactly declined since then, so expect this show to attract some attention.
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Created by Susannah Grant, the series looks to combine a harrowing look at the experiences of sexual assault survivors with elements of the true crime genre. It’s worth noting that Netflix has previously come under fire for its treatment of rape in television shows. “13 Reasons Why” has been widely criticized for including a violent scene of assault in its second season, with the consensus being that it does more harm than good. While Netflix recently removed a depiction of suicide from the show, the rape scene is still included.
It remains to be seen what, if any, lessons Netflix learned from the experience as they return to the subject matter with a true story.
“Unbelievable” starts streaming on Netflix on September 13. Check out the series’ latest trailer below.