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Opinion articles written in the style of their author. These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. All opinion articles written by individuals from outside the staff of EL PAÍS shall feature, along with the author’s name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

‘The Long Shadow’, the story of a serial killer

Far from a morbid retelling of death, the series features notable sets and costuming — and does not shy from showing the machismo that permeated the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper

An image from the series ‘The Long Shadow’.
An image from the series ‘The Long Shadow’.Movistar Plus+
Ángel S. Harguindey

The Long Shadow is an excellent British series, and its viewers would do well to keep in the mind the decade in which its plot takes place. During the 1970s, London was experiencing a liberating social and culture shake-up, while in Yorkshire County, police were trying to arrest a serial murderer who targeted women. Complicated times, in which economic crisis and unemployment forced some housewives to turn to sex work to be able to feed their family. This was the demographic from which the so-called “Yorkshire Ripper” initially chose his victims.

Largely avoiding special effects and any morbid fixation, the sobering series, which can be seen on Amazon Prime and ITVX, makes use of remarkable locations and wardrobe from the aforementioned decade. To them, it adds an important take on the deep-rooted machismo that characterized the vast majority of the police officers who were involved in the long-lasting investigation. The cops display intolerable contempt towards women in general, and their female colleagues in particular. And before we satisfy ourselves by thinking that such relatively recent bias is a British thing, consider the fact that it wasn’t until 1974, when the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed, that women’s right to open their own bank account without a signature from their husband was recognized in the United States. Not to mention, that there was no national plan to combat gender-based violence until just last year.

Peter Sutcliffe murdered a total of 13 women in Leeds, Bradford and Manchester, and it took five years for police to identify and arrest the assassin. In the series, investigators are played by heavyweight British actors like Toby Jones and David Morrissey, the latter in the role of George Olfield, who was the head of the police operation for the majority of those years, and who was highly criticized for his fixation on following clues that went nowhere. Special mention should be made of the splendid self-criticism exhibited in the seven episodes of The Long Shadow, which was written by George Kay and directed by Lewis Arnold, an apt account of the events that caused the very foundations of British society to tremble.

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