On Alias Grace, on Netflix

A novel by Margaret Atwood

“One must be wary of the pretty face telling stories…as they are easier to believe.”

There is a danger in not knowing boundaries, of course.

I thought about the preceding line while I was watching the Margaret Atwood on Netflix. Grace was an Irish girl, young and fetching, despite the fact that she was accused of being a “murderess” as a teenager, and had been in jail until fifteen years later, a society decided to send an emissary to her town so that she could be tested to see if she was really innocent.

The story started with an introduction to Grace as an inmate in a women’s correctional facility where she was detained for the past 15 years, surviving on the good graces of the judge, who also allowed her to work during the day at his large house. Grace felt like a fixture, a topic of conversation for the guests at the house. She could not tell whether they were drawn by the macabre nature of her alleged crime, or whether they just wanted her around to poke at, with their multitude of questions.

Presently comes Dr. Jordan, a psychiatrist who was drawn to her story…which eventually led to his carnal attraction towards the young lady. As the course of her tragic young life unfolded by way of her riveting storytelling skills, and flashbacks, we find him drawn in deeper than was obviously professional.

Of special note was how he handled his dealings with her, and how deftly she seemed to weave her story like Scheherazade… as a way to survive. Seeing how adept she was at manipulating emotions, and how correspondingly inept he seemed in seeing this dynamic unfold, I am all at once both annoyed and amused.

Truly, one must be trained to see one’s blind spots, as this young psychiatrist was the victim of his own lack of propriety and boundaries. I do not want to preempt the story for your own pleasurable viewing, but I would just like to share the necessity of being on self-aware. Being as objective as possible, disencumbers us so we can help our patients become better.

Alias Grace is a short 6 episode run on Netflix, directed by Mary Harrington and starring Sarah Gadon. It was based on the 1996 novel by Margaret Atwood and was adapted by Sarah Polley, and ran in September to October 2017.

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