National Treasure

Easy to like, but a rapist

Reflection on the TVNZ series ‘National Treasure’

By Anne Stephenson


Still available to be viewed on TVNZ On Demand.

This series introduces us to Paul, a charming eloquent buffoon who is easy to like. He is a comedian and loved with his high profile and history. We are introduced to his wife, daughter and Grandson.

The bubble of warmth we have been experiencing is pierced but the news of a sexual charge being brought against him by a young woman, it is Rape. It is serious and the outcome if convicted is haunting although only alluded to, it is likely to mean a prison sentence.

Two opposing parties get involved and the publicity is sought so that other complainants can come forward. It ends up with seven complainants. Paul’s house is searched and there are 14 boxes of incriminating material that would indicate a sexual addiction.  Yet this material is  glossed over and the defence lawyers sharpen their attack.

Paul tries to keep in the public eye but on his terms, even highlighting the issues with his daughter. Paul is assisted from being open and honest by the “No comment” advice.

In all the flurry and publicity the case goes to trial and is tested out by the jury system.

Red herrings are offered but the viewers perception is beginning to clear. The viewer is let into a memory where there is no doubt Paul is guilty. The jury does not have the viewer’s knowledge this can only be given them by others. There is no Victim Impact Statement. In fact we see the destruction of the victim’s credibility. There is no focus on the 7 other victims and what justice may mean for them.

The suspense is held until the colleague is required to put his memory on one side or the other. He chickens out of the truth of the matter for his own sake and does not honour his own knowing. So their collective history is protected.

The world celebrates the release of their hero, who has admitted he is a philanderer but this is seen to be of no importance.  His lawyers are vindicated as being good lawyers, their reputations are upheld. The nasty experience is over for the offender, probably never over for the victims. The only other outcome is that the man’s family wakes up. They have publically stood beside Paul but after the trial, they believe the victims and now have a fuller knowledge of the husband and father.  

This story\is familiar to the difficulty society has had in bringing sexual offenders to justice. Society and lawyers seem to protect the most powerful. This series does present one side only. In fact the viewer is only partially shown the victim’s perspective throughout the whole story. Although we can see how the sexualisation of relationships is interpreted as ‘love’ by one victim.

In 1985 the United Nations offered a “Compendium of United Nation standards and Norms in crime and prevention and criminal justice”. This is a significant document to be read in the light of this series. It is easy to Google it.

The viewer may well ask if justice was well served as shown in this series?

Were the victims validated in their complaint?

Was the community protected for this underside of Paul’s addictive behaviour?