A murderer roams economically depressed British towns, attacking and killing women for five years. True crime stories featuring serial killers are gripping and engaging for all the right, and sometimes wrong, reasons. But in The Ripper (Netflix), the killing spree sets the stage for an investigation that exposed a bias against the victims that ultimately cost more lives. The old saying is ‘it’s not the crime, it’s the coverup.’ In The Ripper, it’s not the crime, but the investigation that almost let the killer go free and left the victims in shame.
No.. The Other Ripper
The word ‘ripper’ is usually preceded by ‘Jack the.’ So when someone started killing presumed prostitutes, the media started calling him the Yorkshire Ripper.
What sets this case apart from other true crime shows and makes it worth watching, is how the murders weren’t taken seriously. The first few known victims were believed to be prostitutes, simply because they were poor and went out drinking. The vicious victim blaming of the poor, the powerless, those of different skin color, made sure the crimes never got any coverage better than page four.
It wasn’t until an ‘innocent’ girl was killed that the sensational crimes became a front page crisis. The docuseries focuses on the families of the victims, survivors who managed to escape, and and the cops who developed the theory and refused to deviate from their profile.
The same came to victims. Turns out most if not all of the victims were just working class women, not working girls. People who escaped the killer were told they weren’t part of the case because he was only hunting prostitutes. Investigators managed to revictimize women at every junction.
Get A Clue
The murders went down from 1975-80. Women were more empowered than ever, working more, going out on their own, and taking The Pill gave them more agency over their bodies than ever before. When the murders gripped public attention, detectives focused on making women change their behavior. They should be home by ten. Only go out with male escorts. Dress conservatively.
Needless to say the revocation of empowerment did not go over, and the women of these towns took to the streets.
Meanwhile police looked at letters and a tape from the killer as game changers. Anyone who didn’t match the accent was dismissed as a possible suspect. If handwriting samples didn’t line up, then investigators moved on. Only problem: the letters and tape were hoaxes.
It isn’t until the last episode that the show takes on the more ‘traditional’ feel of a true crime story. We finally get down to brass tacks of arresting and trying the killer. It’s almost an obligatory afterthought.
The point of the show is to reveal how police bungled and to re-empower the women. And speaking of bungling: after five years, with millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours spent on a task force, the guy was caught by a regular beat cop who ran a license plate and saw it didn’t match up to the car.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
After watching this much sadness and incompetence, I need a drink. I’ll have a screwdriver. Ice, OJ, and Stoli. No one could mess that up.