Over-the-Top-of-the-Lake

I just finished watching the over-the-top 2013 television drama miniseries, Top of The Lake. I say “over-the-top” because to me, as a viewer, I felt so many times like my comfort zone was being invaded. This is rare, but Top of the Lake is a rarity in and of itself in a perpetual sea of competing crime and drama series out there.

TopoftheLake

The main storyline revolves around a visibly pregnant 12-year-old girl, Tui, who goes missing (by choice?) in New Zealand. Jane Campion, a native New Zealander, co-directed the series and reunited to work with Holly Hunter once more (The Piano was ten years ago).  Here’s where I confess… I was less excited about seeing Holly Hunter on the screen than I was about her cast mate Elisabeth Moss. Who? Elisabeth Moss aka Peggy Olson from Mad Men. 

Elisabeth Moss did not disappoint. She was phenomenal in Top of the Lake as were Holly Hunter and the actress who played young Tui, Jacqueline Joe. Even Lucy Lawless aka Xena, or more recently Lucretia Batiatus, makes a perfect cameo appearance. As a matter of fact and overall, the casting and writing and cinematography were incredible and I was again awed by the beauty of New Zealand.

Through all seven episodes of the miniseries there were unexpected twists and turns to the plot and moments where I held my breath because of the intensity of a scene. Without giving much away I can tell you that people in the story died and some lived, and that there was lots of nudity and comedy to balance the dark and scary world of sexual abuse and rape, right or wrong it was all covered in Top of the Lake.

Among the other series I’m currently watching, there’s comedy and nudity and sex and death, but none of the other series have left me with such a sinking feeling so long after I’ve turned the off the screen. I believe that what’s bothering me still about my viewing experience, is the fact that what happened to 12-year-old Tui in Top of the Lake is a very real thing that can happen outside of a television script. Having stumbled upon the show with no prior information about it, I was floored by the subject matter and then slowly hopeful that some good would come of the program in the end. I believe I hoped too much.

Having been a victim of sexual abuse myself, at a very young age, I walked away from Top of the Lake disappointed. I realize this is just my assessment, and a very specific one related to my experiences and subsequent expectations of a television show. Although I will take nothing away from the wonderful work of fiction this series is, I do wonder if there could have been a greater purpose to shocking the viewer with content so raw and ugly. Ugly, compared to the beauty of the New Zealand landscape, I get it.

Did they revolve the story around the growing baby belly of a child, and other sexual victims through the seven episodes, just for shock’s sake? It felt that way, and in retrospect made everything else in the writing less believable. Hence, my “over-the-top” label…

Always dishing,

Jun

13 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that, Jun. Rape and sexual abuse are two topics in the news right now because of that heinous Cleveland kidnapping. Going through something like that once must be terrifying and traumatic but to endure it along with beatings every day for ten years is just the definition of torture. I hope those girls find happiness and can have somewhat normal lives. I trust your judgment so I won’t watch this miniseries.

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      I am not discouraging anyone from watching the series. It’s very non-conventional and new to me for television. I enjoyed it and I’d recommend it :). My personal experiences just gave me a different perspective. It will probably be different for you :).

      Reply
  2. I tried to check it out on netflix and they kept saying it was an error. now Im not sure if i want to or not. You think that child sex and human trafficing are not going to touch your life and then it turns out a girl i had in many of the sewing programs at the library is involved. its necessary to at least look at the other sides of life. if the error goes away.

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Yes. I think everyone takes away something different when it comes to looking at other sides of life, so I hope you get to order it!

      Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Romance and satisfying end…hmmm…well…Davy and I are into heavy dramas and such! Like The Borgias, The Americans, Hannibal…

      Have you been watching Scandal?

      Reply
  3. Anonymous

    I just watched the series, primarily due to your visceral reaction. I found that Tui’s plot line throughout the series was simply a thread which tied multiple layers together. My take away was the inherent apathy within the lake community, not to mention the self-absorbed absurdity of the Paradise commune.

    Unfortunately, these emotionless aspects of human existance is more common than one may realize. A sad commentary, to be sure.

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Yes absolutely Tui was the thread. I enjoyed all the layers, it was a great miniseries despite the reality of things. Glad you watched it and came back to discuss!

      Reply
  4. AJ

    I am so sorry for what you had to endure, Jun. I, too, am an adult survivor of childhood abuse — not sexual, but physical and emotional at the hands of an intensely disturbed mother, like Matt’s. Although the subject matter was very hard for me and the cause of several sleepless nights, I did take several positive messages from the miniseries. Among the key ones was that a horrendous childhood is not an excuse for cruelty, not even a mitigating circumstance, and that it is our absolute obligation as humans to be compassionate, to avoid harming others, and to stop the cycle of violence, no matter how intensely it was inflicted upon us. That is a message I am committed to implementing every day, and I see it personified in the characters of Jonno, Robin, and to a certain extent even GJ. There were other messages for me too (e.g., the horrendous cost of apathy), but the one I mention here was the strongest for me.

    Reply

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