It was dubbed as one of the biggest – and most important- shows of 2017 and as we watched last night’s episode of Big Little Lies it quickly became clear why.
While on the surface the show may be all about glitz and glamour - with its seaside location, all-star cast and murderous plot - there is something much more important at play.
Last night’s episode, titled ‘Serious Mothering’, brought to the forefront the abusive undertone of the relationship between Celeste (played by Nicole Kidman) and Perry (played by Alexander Skarsgard).
There was rough sex, violence and screaming.
In the episode, Perry becomes frustrated after delaying his flight to attend the boys first day of school, only to discover that this consists of nothing more than dropping them off at the front gate. Back home Perry slaps Celeste. She slaps him back and so he shoves her, hard, against the wall.
He then begs for forgiveness, before it quickly turns sexual and he rips down her pants, throws her around and has sex with her. Kidman and Skarsgaard have an electric chemistry, but it is abundantly clear her screams are anything but passionate.
Later, Celeste offers her friend Madeline her first hint that the couple’s relationship is anything less than perfect, admitting, “Sometimes I think he likes to fight because it leads to sex. Sometimes I think I like it too.”
As Georgina Dent describes it in a recent marie claire article, Celeste’s ”sometimes I think I like it too” comment reiterates “the fear, the self-loathing, the doubt and the shame that abuse creates.”
The relationship between the pair continues to become more troubling as the episode continues, when Perry, away for work, later urges Celeste to strip down for him via Skype because he misses her. When she finally agrees she notices her shoulder in mirror covered in bruises and quickly ends the call. Later in the espisode, a second Skype call ends in a steamy online sex session.
And thus is the cycle of abuse.
The scenes between Celeste and Perry are confronting to watch. Which is exactly why they are so important.
Big Little Lies bring domestic violence to the conversation and breaks down the misconception that violence is only a problem in certain cultures or postcodes.
“As a shelter manager at one point, within one cohort, we had a doctor, a lawyer, an optometrist and a concert pianist,” CEO of Community Women’s Shelters, Annabelle Daniel recently told marie claire.
“They were all highly educated, professional women from middle to upper class backgrounds and they had all experienced extreme physical and psychological abuse.”
To the outside world, Celeste’s life, and those of so many women just like her, appear to be perfect, but it couldn’t be any further form the truth.
“We conflate domestic violence with physical abuse but domestic violence isn’t just about physical abuse it’s actually about power and control,” she says.
“Emotional, psychological and financial abuse comprise domestic violence too.”
Daniel says shows such as Big Little Lies have the power to bring the conversation about domestic violence to people that might currently be in a situation that might have had no access to help or information before.
“Any kind of awareness of domestic violence - if it’s done sensitively - is very useful even if that’s a depiction in some form of popular culture,” Daniel adds.
“Those conversations can be very useful for people who are considering disclosing violence. They are testing the waters to see who they can trust if they were going to disclose,” Daniel says. “I would encourage people to be sensitive and aware that they might be providing an opportunity for someone to open up.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact 1800 Respect(1800 737 732) for advice and support.