Viewers of The Woman in the Wall have criticized the BBC for making a ‘thriller’ about the Magdalene Laundries tragedy.
The six-part series examines the legacy of these institutions, which operated for over 200 years until the end of the 20th century and remain one of Ireland’s most shocking scandals.
Magdalene Laundries have been accused of treating inmates like slaves, imposing a regime of fear and prayer on the girls they are sometimes entrusted with to become pregnant out of wedlock.
However, the series, which stars Ruth Wilson and Daryl McCormack, has been criticized by viewers, who say it’s “disturbing” to see the dramatized horror.
Critic Pat Stacey wrote in the Irish Independent that “Using Magdalene laundries as a thriller hook is a bad decision”.
He wrote: “Leaving this forgivable clumsiness [of the dialogue] aside, the most serious problem with The Woman in the Wall is whether the suffering of women incarcerated at the hands of the vicious and sadistic nuns who ran these hells is best served by hooking what is essentially a matter of blood and thunder. thriller – a murder mystery mixed with elements of gothic melodrama, grim horror and even dark humor.
Magdalen laundries were institutions, usually run by Catholic religious organizations, that operated for over 200 years, from the 18th century to the end of the 20th century.
The laundries, depicted in the award-winning film ‘The Magdalene Sisters’, subjected around 10,000 women and girls as young as nine years old to uncompromising hardship from the founding of the Irish state in 1922 until 1996.
Run by Catholic nuns, the laundries have been accused of treating inmates like slaves, imposing a regime of fear and prayer on girls sometimes entrusted to their care to become pregnant out of wedlock.
They were created to house single mothers, but were later expanded to house girls considered “promiscuous”, criminals, mentally ill and girls considered a burden on their families.
It is estimated that 30,000 women were locked in these buildings, where countless horrors are said to have taken place. Amazingly, they worked until 1996.
In the 1990s, the discovery of the graves of 155 women in the compound of one of the laundries revealed the extent of abuse committed in certain institutions.
In 2017, another 800 baby skeletons were discovered in County Galway, Ireland. The dead babies are believed to have been secretly buried next to a home for single mothers and their children for 36 years, ending in the 1960s.
At the High Park Magdalene Laundry – the house that would have been part of the “training center” attended by the late Sinead O’Connor – 133 bodies were exhumed from the cemetery, with another 22 bodies discovered after it was closed.
But there were only 75 death certificates for the original 133 women, according to the Irish Times.
Many former occupants of the houses have spoken out about the abuse they suffered, including Irishwoman Kathleen Legg whose nightmare of being in the care of nuns still haunts her.
Speaking in 2015, she said: “The memories are still there. There are some things you can’t block. Until the day I die, he will be with me.
Kathleen recalls some of the work she had to do: “There were very big, heavy rolls. The sheets would be hot. It would be the work of a grown man. I got up at six in the morning and every time the bell rang, you went where you were told to go.
“I didn’t know how old I was. There were no mirrors and birthdays were never celebrated,” she revealed.
Rather than receive an education, once she entered the convent, Kathleen was stripped naked and put on a uniform. She hasn’t seen another class for four years.
She said: “Over the next four years I scrubbed, polished and cleaned every square inch of this building, working long hours in the laundry. I changed my name and was known as number 27.
“The whole time I was there I had little or very basic food. In fact, it was miserable and I’ll never know how we survived. I was constantly hungry and almost starved to death. The nuns treated me and other people there like slaves.
It was not until February 2013 that the survivors received an apology from the Irish government and a £50 million compensation package was put in place.
The BBC drama’s opening episode saw Lorna Brady (Ruth Wilson) waking up one morning to find a dead body in her home. Scarily, she had no idea who the dead woman was or if she herself might be responsible for the apparent murder.
Lorna has long suffered from extreme bouts of sleepwalking after being confined to one of the infamous laundries and having her 15-year-old daughter taken from her.
During the new BBC series, the ambitious and elusive detective Colman Akande (played by McCormack) is on the trail of Lorna for a crime that apparently has nothing to do with the dead woman she discovered in her House.
Directed by Motive Pictures for the BBC and SHOWTIME, The Woman in The Wall is written by Joe Murtagh, directed by Harry Wootliff and Rachna Suri, with Susan Breen as producer.
Executive producers are Simon Maxwell, Sam Lavender, Joe Murtagh, Ruth Wilson and Harry Wootliff, with Lucy Richer for the BBC.
And it wasn’t just critics who were uncertain about the BBC’s decision to dramatize the horror.
Many viewers wondered if this was an appropriate story to tell on television for entertainment purposes.
One person wrote: “So far so awful. A total mess…all the Ireland clichés checked in the first 20 minutes. Banshees included. Good night.’
Another commented, “I’m not sure what to make of #TheWomanintheWall.
“To mix crime drama with a real-life tragedy that is not yet fully understood is deeply disturbing.”
Another added: “What happened is misleading. forced adoptions and what happened when.
“Dealing with real-life tragedies is important.
“The blurring of reality undermines the truth. »
However, others suggested that the program dealt with the issues appropriately.
One commented, “As a kid sold through this unimaginable system, I needed the sick and inappropriate humor of this show.
“I see my mother needs the same. The truth is too much. RIP Mom. Thanks and love to everyone else.
“For those intrigued by this, it’s recent history.”
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