Nothing Trivial about a rape plot, TVNZ

Last updated 14:54 05/08/2014

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One of the greatest films of all time, The Shawshank Redemption, has an ending that doesn't fit with the rest of the film.

The last shot - Andy Dufresne and Red about to meet up again - was a sop to audiences who didn't like open endings - the original finale was Red sitting in a bus. We were to make up our own minds what happened next.

It's an ending that director and script-writer Frank Darabont didn't want. It so infuriated legendary British film critic Mark Kermode that he edited his own version of the film without the scene in it.

Having watched the finale of Nothing Trivial I have sympathies for Kermode's position.

I am a huge Nothing Trivial fan and, while it was not a perfect show by any stretch, it was great New Zealand comedy drama that deserves its place in our television history.

But the two-hour finale? I'm afraid I'll be trying to forget it ever happened.

I appreciate the majority of fans will probably be delighted that Catherine (Tandi Wright) survived being mowed down as she set off to deliver the good news to Mac (Shane Cortese) that their relationship had a future.

Aside from that, though, there was nothing of huge substance in the finale that made it a necessity.

When we left the original series Michelle (Nicole Whippy) had found happiness with Richard (Richard Knowles), Emma (Debbie Newby-Ward) and Brian (Blair Strang) were making their relationship work, and Mac's ex-wife Jo (Katherine Kennard) was a major pain in the ass.

The end of the two-hour special? Michelle had found happiness with Richard, Emma and Brian were making their relationship work, and Mac's ex-wife Jo was still a major pain in the ass, although now engaged to Will Hall's Cory. Yeah, the less said about that final point the better.

This isn't the fault of the cast by any stretch of the means. No-one here does sassy like Nicole Whippy. No-one here has the depth and range of Shane Cortese - just compare his roles in Nothing Trivial and The Almighty Johnsons to see what I mean. Will Hall's laugh was enough to light up a scene.

But none of what I've mentioned was the biggest problem with the finale. That goes to a moment that I found so gross and insensitive that it completely took me out of show and left me wondering what I was watching.

In an attempt, presumably, to make Brian face up to the reality of his life - his growth as a man, his family issues, his responsibilities as a father and business owner - Jake waltzed into the show and got a job at Brian's plumbing firm.

Jake was the cheeky young guy, a favourite with women - essentially a mirror-image of Brian when he was younger. But then it took a turn that left me feeling sick to my stomach.

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It turns out Jake was the instigator in a - thankfully not shown - gang rape after he got the job with Brian. He took great delight in talking about it, saying how she was up for it despite being so drunk she was sick over one of the other rapists. 

He laughed about it. Yep, laughed about the gang rape of a 15-year-old. With a side of victim blaming too.

Brian, rightfully, kicked him out of the job. But what's the old saying? Not only has justice to be done, but it has to be seen to be done?

There was no such thing for Jake. The next time we see him he's got two broken ribs after being beaten up by his step-father, causing sympathy for him. And Brian and Emma? Not only are they happy to welcome him back to work they also allow him to move into their shed for a few weeks.

Err... THIS GUY GANG RAPED A 15 YEAR OLD. Redemption isn't in him getting a second chance immediately afterwards - it's about him going to jail and after he's paid his debt to society perhaps earning a second chance.

It seemed so outrageously out of character for Emma to welcome a rapist into their house that I was left too stunned to be able to enjoy any more of the show.

Yes, I accept this didn't actually happen. It was a plot point in a television show. But, to me, that doesn't absolve those responsible for how they chose to play out that plot.

What kind of message does that send to any young women watching who may find themselves in similar circumstances? And what kind of message does it give to young men in those circumstances?

Television influences those who watch - if it didn't we wouldn't have adverts, product placement, or indeed get emotional watching it.

Whilst we're in the midst of a national debate about rape culture it seems unbelievable crass to use a rape as such a blunt plot device, particularly when there were other options open.

Let me be absolutely clear - I don't believe for one second that ANYONE involved in the show believed they were contributing to rape culture with this plot.

But I'm left with no other conclusion than they have by allowing a rapist to be so glibly accepted back without any kind of acknowledgement that he committed one of most heinous crimes possible.

And that, frankly, spoils what should have been a two-hour celebration of a show and ensures I'll never watch the finale again.

My ending will always be Catherine being run down. On good days I'll imagine she survived and her and Mac lived happily ever after.

On bad days I'll probably imagine she died and think about how Mac dealt with his grief.

Because, as Frank Darabont and Mark Kermode both understand, some things are just best left to the imagination.

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