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“Anatomy of a Scandal”–Autopsy of Privilege

Anatomy of a Scandal, a Netflix thriller mini-series created by David E. Kelley and Melissa  Gibson, is based on Sarah Vaughan’s novel by the same name.  Released on April 15, 2022, Anatomy of a Scandal  takes the viewer into familiar territory: the  “he said, she said” of a rape trial involving an illustrious and powerful political figure.

Handsome and elegant British  MP James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) is a scion of the illustrious and aristocratic Whitehouse family. “Being a Whitehouse means you never lose,” his young son proudly repeats as the family dictum.  His beautiful wife Sophie Whitehouse (Sienna Miller) also comes from a privileged family and also is accustomed to achievements she did not earn herself but through relying on others’ hard work. 

Early in Episode One James confesses to his wife of having an affair with his attractive,  young office researcher, Olivia (Naomi Scott), before the news breaks the following morning. When James ends the five-month affair with Olivia, she accuses him of rape.  Up until now neither Sophie nor James has ever experienced the consequences of unethical behavior.  In James’s case, he has escaped accountability for darker actions that have occurred in his past.

The trial begins with the central issue of what constitutes consent.  Brilliant prosecuting attorney, Kate  Woodcroft  (Michelle Dockery from “Downton Abbey”), has the daunting task of establishing that Olivia, although in love with her boss, could still be raped by him.  Who will the jury believe?  Why is Kate Woodcroft so emotionally invested in this case?  And will Sophie continue to be the dutiful, perfect politician’s wife: standing by her man,  with  all eyes of the country on her as the aggrieved spouse presumably  still believing in her husband?

James and Olivia each tell their version of the truth and Kate Woodcroft and defense attorney Angela Regan (Josette Simon), confidently and boldly reinforce that the testimony their client is presenting is to be believed and validated.  With dark and ominous flashbacks into the world of privilege and entitlement, there is the pernicious and heinous assumption that no matter what the elite do, they are good people.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. And  Anatomy of a Scandal  brilliantly excoriates what personal truth is:  namely,  defined not by who one is  but by who one  thinks he or she is. Anatomy of a Scandal is a cautionary tale of  self-aggrandizing cultural values and the patina of dignity, family values and acceptable behavior.

Highly recommend!  One of my favorite mini-series this year!

Availability:  Netflix streaming

Note:  Court reporter Sarah Vaughan loosely based her novel on two scandals in England, one involving soon-to-be Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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