29.9.15

Why does the ‘Rob’ scenario in the Archers bother so many people and why is it so upsetting?

Information on the Rob character in the Archers for those that are not regular listeners, can be found here.

I, like many people, have never been personally involved with domestic abuse, not coercion, not control, not violence; but like many I am aware of it.

I would expect people that have experienced it to find the storyline uncomfortable at best but at worst to cause stress and flashbacks and real fear. But why does it also cause other people, people with no experience of abuse to feel similarly?

I think the reason that the Rob story line in the archers affects people who have no experience of abuse is because it turns us into voyeurs, allowing us to stand idly by while Rob lies, cheats, controls and demeans, it makes us feel complicit with his abuse as we are forced to listen but unable to do anything to help.

Perhaps this is the writers intention, to allow us to feel as powerless as one of Rob’s victims, to feel that impotence to be able to act, the same thing that surely the other characters feel when confronted with his clever words that are always ‘not quite obvious abuse’, ‘not quite worth calling out’.

Like most people I hope that Rob gets what’s surely his due very soon. But part of me feels that maybe, as so often in real life, he won’t, that his smarmy control of business rivals and his frightening control of Helen and her child will just continue for ever.

On a practical fictional note Helen has lost a previous partner to a death (also a brother) so I imagine that Rob will not meet a sticky end, as surely that would finish Helen too. I wonder if perhaps finally he will be called out, discovered and like the feeble bully he is he will run away, to remain a shadow character, lurking in the dark of the stage wings, always threatening return, maybe having already become Henry’s legal father.

What ever happens I hope some thing does and soon, as from reading tweets it looks as if people are no longer just annoyed at Rob’ original ‘panto villain’ status but are now uneasy, afraid and creeped out by his increasingly dubious behaviour. Some victims of domestic abuse have said they have had to stop listening as the familiar phrases and controlling nature of his character are just too upsetting. In the sleepy world of Ambridge will his cheating at cricket be the final straw?

I’ve love to hear what you think, please join the conversation in the comments below. Do you like having a an evil character in the Archers? Is Rob really scary or just a silly character? Do people that take the Archers this seriously need to get a life? Is the actor’s portrayal of Rob’s gradual descent into an abusive partner a thing of genius or a step too far on a sleepy radio show for a Sunday afternoon.

If you or anyone you know are affected by domestic violence you can seek help here