I hadn’t heard of Top of the Lake until my friend Liz asked me on Facebook if I’d watched it. “Well, whatever, I’ll give this a shot,” I thought, and I watched the first episode not knowing what it was about, where it was made, or who was in it. And then I fell in love with it, and…well, I think it might be the best show I’ve seen in recent memory.
Directed by Jane Campion (she of the long, lustrous gray hair), Top of the Lake takes place in New Zealand and stars Elizabeth Moss as Robin. At the beginning, it’s about Robin trying to find out who impregnated a 12 year old girl named Tui. But, pretty quickly, the show turns into a whole lot more than just a mystery. Slight spoiler: Robin, we come to find out, was brutally gang-raped in this town back when she was in high school. Her rapists weren’t punished and no one seems to take the crime seriously. That’s part of the reason why Robin is so invested in Tui’s case.
What I loved so much about about Top of the Lake (besides the breathtaking scenery and the truly compelling plot) is that it’s a story about women. Primarily Robin, but also Tui, Robin’s mom, and the women who are staying at an all-lady compound called Paradise with a weird, enigmatic leader named GJ (played by Holly Hunter with the weirdest hair I’ve ever seen on a human being). At its heart, this is a show about rape culture, about the violence inflicted on women, and about the connections between women. I mean, there are some truly God-awful men in this show played by some amazing actors, but the women are the real core of the story.
You know how a lot of the time when people talk about “strong female characters,” they’re talking about women who shoot bad guys or fight vampires or exist in some violent fictional universe? I get why people like those stories, but they aren’t for me. I’m much more interested in a strong woman like Robin, whose scars are more emotional than physical, who’s dealing with an incredibly real pain that real women go through every day. She’s dealing with the trauma of her own sexual assault while trying to help other people…that’s what I consider strength. And things definitely aren’t easy for Robin, as you know if you’ve seen the show already. I mean, lady deals with some shit, which I would love to detail but seriously you just have to watch it.
And while it wasn’t like I was watching this show for the nudity, I appreciated that there were so many different types of female bodies represented. There were women of different sizes and ages shown in situations both sexual and not sexual, and honestly, I always find that really refreshing. We’re presented with one type of “perfect” body so much that it’s easy to forget what real human beings look like.
Anyway, this is the best show ever. I really and truly loved it, and it’s only 7 episodes, so there’s no excuse not to watch it (as long as you have Netflix)! It’s full of symbolism and shocking moments and weird, unexpected violence. Tone-wise, it sort of reminded me of David Fincher’s version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Have you guys seen Top of the Lake? Will you please all watch it so we can talk about it together? If you’ve already seen the show and don’t mind some spoilers, you can read this article about its examination of rape culture. And if you haven’t seen it, watch this trailer and get hooked.