Guest Post: Lev Raphael

Why Does TV Make Fools of Its Women?

Gran Hotel is not a crime show.  It’s a sexy, romantic, exciting Spanish series that ran for three seasons, blending Downton Abbey with Dynasty.  And it raises the temperature by adding robberies, marital rape, murders, bombs, poisonings, and relentless skulduggery.

The show is set in northern Spain on the Atlantic coast at a luxurious hotel.  There’s constant interaction at many levels between the staff and the feuding Alarcón owners, a family with secrets coming out of their jewel boxes.


The decorous 1905 clothes cover up seething passions: revenge, adultery, jealousy, lust, hatred, and much more.  It’s a festival of hugger-mugger, with a handsome, compelling cast and great comic touches to lighten the tension.

But true to form, people in it do the dumbest things imaginable when faced with crime or criminals.  Like the Alarcón daughter married to an impoverished  Marquis.  She finds someone stabbed to death in her beautiful suite.  Does she scream?  No.  Does she run from the room?  No.  Does she faint?  No.  Does she call for the police who basically could set up a substation there?  No.  Does she even ring for a maid to bring her some tea or brandy to deal with the shock?  No.

She picks up the bloody knife, and you think, “Sure, that’s exactly what I would do if I found a body in my room–pick up the murder weapon.”  Of course she’s discovered lurking over the corpse and arrested.

This happens all the time in crime shows and it’s beyond stupid.  Why would anyone do that, as opposed to, say, check a pulse to see if the person might be alive?

Then there’s an altercation in another episode where a blackmailing thug is wounded in the hotel office but escapes.  Well, supposedly.  We see blood inside the hotel and assume he’s hiding there (if we’re veterans of reading or writing crime fiction).  One of the guests who’s a family friend goes to her room and when she closes the door, finds blood on her hand from the French-style door handle.  Does she flee?  No way!  Unarmed, she creeps forward into the room, oh-so-slowly, to see who’s there.  What she does is doubly unbelievable because she’s a lawyer and one of the smartest, most independent-minded characters in the show.  Of course she’s taken captive by the gun-wielding miscreant.


If that isn’t bad enough, a woman who’s been abused by a villainous husband who’s not everything he claims to be and has locked her in a secret cavern and has threatened to keep her there until she reveals the identity of her lover manages to escape and lock him up.  Revenge is very sweet.  Now she’s holding him captive, urging him to sign annulment papers to release her from their hateful marriage.  When she checks on him at one point to gloat and press him about the annulment, she finds him outside the cell and wounded, with a gun by his side.  You guessed it: she picks up the gun and is instantly arrested and accused of having shot him by the police who just happen to be there.


Obviously the screenwriters privileged the plot over believability in each case, but they made otherwise intelligent characters seem moronic.  I’ve seen it happen in TV show after show, and all too often it’s women who end up making the wrong moves.

Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in genres from memoir to mystery including The Edith Wharton Murders.


10 thoughts on “Guest Post: Lev Raphael”

  1. Hi Lev, thanks for visiting. Interesting post. Lots of food for thought there. As writers, we strive to create strong, capable, women, although the occasional air head provides a wonderful comic relief. Perhaps the writers of this show believe that the damsel in distress scenario creates sympathy and engages the watcher. Although I confess, I might be tempted to enter that room myself!


  2. Thanks for visiting us, Lev! Haven’t seen Gran Hotel, but it sounds as though they need a Phryne Fisher-esque character to check in… 🙂

    This also makes me think about the willing suspension of disbelief. I’ve been watching Scream Queens, and it’s completely over the top and unbelievable (even offensive at times) but still compelling–maybe because it’s self-aware?


  3. Good question. And why do we have news babes? Picture the audition: female journalist in network chief of news division’s office, he examines her remarkable resume (respected school, top of class, progressively important assignments in progressively larger markets, awards), he watches the DVD of her off-the-cough reporting at major news events and then he asks “Yeah, but how do you look in a sleeveless skin-tight sheath?”

    It makes me nuts!


  4. What an interesting take on this show. I was so smitten by Julio and the pretty dresses I never actually thought about what was happening!


  5. We all must remember to keep our eyes on the prize — equal female characters — good, bad, weak, strong, nice, and nasty. Fortunately, the days of the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks are gone, but there are many opportunities for you all as writers to advance the status of women in literature, just as we all struggle to advance the status of women (and all people in general) in society. Sometimes, when we look at how far we have to go, it is easy to forget how far we have come.

    My husband and I were watching “Home Fires” Masterpiece (PBS) last Sunday. One of the women is being abused physically and emotionally by her husband. My husband commented that at that time there weren’t really any options for her. See, someone besides me does notice — AND it was a MAN.

    The path is long and hard. We must trudge along for ourselves and for our daughters. As for characters in TV, movies, and books that we don’t like, well first — change the channel, then voice your displeasure in writing to sponsors, networks, and the public in general. If we don’t speak for ourselves, no one else will speak for us. If we speak, others will speak with us.


  6. Hi, all. Group response follows. I don’t know if it’s everyone in those shows who picks up the murder weapon. I was particularly struck by three women in a row, three smart strong women, behaving foolishly. And there’s plenty of sympathy to go around already for the beleaguered men and women in the show. Writing this blog is my writer’s way of calling out for change. Though I did not want to change the channel because I was streaming the show and because I found it otherwise so entertaining. The woman who looks into the room is as much a go-getter as Phryne, unfortunately, which is why her case seems the worst. Julio is indeed a looker, btw, but so are so many of the actors. 🙂


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