The Disappearance is one of many of the European detective serial. Such is the ubiquity of these series, that they are fast becoming a genre in their own right and as such, largely due to the sheer plethora of productions, are fast becoming clichéd and stereotyped.
If The Disappearance had been released perhaps five years ago, it might have still felt relatively fresh and interesting, but given that it comes after a multitude of very similar programmes, it feels tired. It is interesting to note that the French language series is a remake of a Spanish series, which begs the question, was this series necessary at all? There seems to be a strange trend of remaking a series in this way; Broadchurch for example was remade for an America audience featuring the same characters, and in the case of the male protagonist, the same actor, whilst The Killing was remade, with some alterations, for an American audience.
I’m not sure what this inclination suggests as regards TV producers’ views of their audiences, but unless intended for an artistic statement (Gus Van Sant style), such a remake, for me at least, smacks of an assumed need to ‘dumb down’ the content for a perceived less-intelligent, sophisticated audience.
Unnecessary remakes aside The Disappearance, shown on BBC Four, features the now trope -like narrative of a young girl Léa who, after her apparent disappearance, is shown to be hiding a number of things from her loving family. I have seen online some discussion regarding the opening scenes of the first episode, in which the audience are privy to Léa’s dressing and undressing as she struggles to decide what she should wear for her big birthday night out. Whilst the setting of her bedroom allowed us to see the interplay between her various family members, as well as show how comfortable she felt around her mother (changing clothes in front of her), I agree with those online that highlight the voyeuristic element of these scenes. There is a clear sense of the camera’s male gaze as it lingeres over the seventeen-year-old’s body. Is it necessary for the audience to witness the attractiveness of the disappeared in order to care? Would we care as much if Léa wasn’t shown to be typically attractive and self-assured?
The detectives assigned the case are, thus far, once again fulfilling character types that have been seen many times before: the quiet, moody male detective struggling with his own personal life as he attempts to return Léa to her family. Perhaps later episodes of the eight-part series will subvert genre expectations, but based on the opening episodes, I think this is unlikely.