I think I’d like her to be happy: Alison Graham on the Lund effect

I spoke to a lot of interesting and knowledge people in the course of writing my article on the Lund effect. Alison Graham, TV Editor of the Radio Times, was high on the list of people I knew were essential to talk to  about The Killing. Not just because she’s a high-profile fan but because I also knew I could rely on her for an intelligent commentary and encyclopaedic telly knowledge. Naturally, she didn’t disappoint and her comments on social media, I think, are particularly perceptive.  Here’s our conversation in full.

Why do you love Sarah Lund?
I thought she was so different from your usual – not just police heroines  – but heroines, in that you never see a glimmer of flighty emotion from her. She doesn’t behave like a girly. You know the convention of tough, female heroines on telly – whether they’re cops or nurses or doctors or whatever – is that they might cope with their jobs brilliantly well and be very clever at what they do, but they’ve always got to have chaotic personal lives and they always have to go home and fall apart. Which she never did. She had a chaotic personal life but it didn’t really matter to her. She had a child and a relationship that never really went anywhere, but you felt she didn’t… care is the wrong word, but it wasn’t up there with the job. The job, and getting it done and finding out who killed [Nanna Birk Larsen] was the most important thing to her. She was so committed to that and to her job, and to doing the right thing for this victim.

What I’ve noticed is that so many women seem to be in love with her. Why do you think that is? Why does Lund have that effect?
She does yes. I certainly have a slight crush on her. It’s so hard to explain. It’s for all those things that I’ve just said: she is every woman who doesn’t drop to bits. She is a great heroine for every woman like me and probably you and a lot of other women who don’t sort of drop to bits when they go home, even if things go wrong. They don’t fall apart and they’re committed to what they do. She’s so strong and she doesn’t feel she has to apologise for being strong. And she doesn’t behave like a woman’s expected to behave on telly. She’s got that scruffy old jumper that she wears for the whole duration of the investigation and her hair’s scruffy. She doesn’t feel the need to put on little heels and skirts. She doesn’t do any of that. It must be quite liberating. It’s quite liberating to watch her in a way: there’s no vanity. She doesn’t have any vanity and she just doesn’t care.  She doesn’t behave as people expect her to because she’s a woman.

Do you think she’s vulnerable beneath that brave exterior?
I don’t know if she is really. It’s hard to tell because she’s so closed up; she doesn’t give anything away. I can’t even think of when we saw her as being particularly vulnerable. We saw her let her guard down a little bit when she had that faintly flirty dinner with Troels Hartmann early in the first series, but it was sort of nothing and even then we thought she was only trying to get to know him because she thought he’d killed Nanna Birk Larsen. I think we want her to be vulnerable because that’s what we want from women but I’m not sure that she is.

You’ve got vast knowledge of TV characters. Have you ever seen another character have this effect on women?
No, not to that degree anyway. The only character who comes close – and she’s still a long way off – is Jane Tennison, who again was strong and did what she did. But she was the one who went home and got horribly drunk because she was so unhappy and she fell apart as soon as she got into her flat. She was desperate, flawed and lonely but she was tough during the day, and she was vulnerable too. But no, I’ve known nothing [like this].

I think the thing you’ve got to remember, too, is that The Killing came along in the era of Twitter and Facebook and instant reaction. Once word of mouth gets out there, it just gets bigger and bigger, and becomes the big talking point, because it’s easy. You know, we can all immediately go on Twitter and go: “isn’t she marvellous? We love her!” So it was perfect, she came along at just the right time, because technology allows the flourishing of these kinds of crushes now and we can all chat to each other about it.

So, do you think Twitter invented the girlcrush?
I don’t think it created it but I think it facilitated that sort of fandom. Quite sensible people don’t feel at all shy about going on Twitter and going “ooh, I have a crush on her!”

Series 3 of The Killing will be the last one, we’re assured. How should it end for Lund? What would you like to happen to her?
I don’t really know. I think it’s good that it’s ending. I think it’s quite right that she’s not going on and on and on. I do like things that end slightly before their time – I think that’s actually a good idea. I think I’d like her to be happy. I would like her to be happy but I’d like her to be still working, still doing what she’s doing still with her ideals intact. Because she doesn’t compromise: that’s one of the other things I really like about her. She doesn’t give any quarter – she believes in something. I hope that she would stay the same, that she’d still be the Lund that we first knew, however many years ago: still clever and still focused and still doing what she is driven to do. I don’t want to see her settled in a little cottage. I want to see her in that jumper, still looking a bit scruffy, still doing what she was born to do, what she loves. She’d let us all down if she moved to a tiny cottage with Bengt and baked scones or rye bread.

Do you think she can ever be happy, though?
I don’t think it matters really. I think in her own dark, emotionally closed down way she is happy, because she does her job. You know, one of the great things about her is that she’s a woman who loves her job. It’s a really difficult job and she loves it, and it’s what she does. It’s what she is to the exclusion of so much else. I’m not saying that’s completely ideal but I think it’s admirable to see that in a female character. She’s not always weeping, she keeps a lid on it and she doesn’t go home and drop to bits.

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