Updated: Feb 16
Domestic Violence is often attributed to the worst-case scenario where a woman ends up in hospital or, worse, in the ground. Maestro In Blue is Greece’s first ever produced and directed Netflix show offering a window into the social and cultural attitudes of Greece set in the idyllic island of Paxos. The show is lauded for its romantic whimsy, panning shots of gorgeous landscape, and overt explorations of domestic violence in marriage, homophobia and corruption, with an obvious nod to the musicality of Greece. Reviews of the show are unanimous: Greece; super pretty. Music; super important. Corruption; super bad. And homophobia; very super bad. While addressing each of these contentious subjects, there is so much nuance that it is difficult to address each subject effectively. With an approximate 10,000 violent crimes committed against women by men in Greece in 2022, the subject of Domestic Violence was at the forefront of this programme. And while the majority of characters were rightfully disturbed by the presence of domestic violence in their midst, the programme was rife with romanticised precursors that permit veiled violence towards women before a man can even form a fist, never mind use it. The director delivered very violent scenes of a lecherous and physically abusive husband routinely beating his wife and gay son behind closed doors, but Maestro In Blue also presents a very fundamental issue; Domestic Violence takes place behind closed doors but is permitted to take root in the insidious attitudes and micro-aggressions towards the female gender in public. Here we will hone in on Klelia, the teenage daughter of the pivotal island politician and corrupt businessman. She is newly 18 years-old, and the veritable “pick-me girl” who isn’t like other girls. She is a talented pianist, beautiful, audacious; your everyday impetuous teenager reaching into adulthood with a timid mistrust for everyone but her grandmother. And she is utterly enamoured with the titular Maestro, Orestis. Klelia seemingly orchestrates protracted periods of alone time with her 46 year-old crush. Her emotional responses to him abandon all common sense. She chooses her outfits to please him and puts extraordinary every effort to please him with her music. She focuses her attention on what he reads and where he goes, she flatters him, makes coquettish glances at him, playfully insults him, makes impassioned pleas for his interest. And here is where things grow controversial; if we see Klelia as the ‘adult’ an arbitrary 18 year-old age affords her, this is romantic and even sexy. But three months prior to these events, Klelia was 17 with a side-pony tail and scrunchies, and these behaviours would simply be cheeky attempts at securing positive attention. Which means soft-glow, rosy shots of her breasts can be a cause for discomfort especially when they are being grappled by someone 27 years her senior. Though Maestro addresses the “big age difference” continuously, no single person, not even her mother, points out that only 3 months prior, this female was a child. What they do resolve to do is identify her growing autonomy and independence and use it to excuse gross abuse of power. While it is universally recognised that young people under the age of 25 are still emotionally and cognitively developing, the emotional and mental inexperience of this teenage girl is joked about or ignored by those with more knowledge and emotional maturity to the point where an adolescent is given a Xanax as though this is common growing-pains. Exploring relationships and rejection is a growing-pain. Learning the value and importance of the word “no” is a growing-pain. A full-scale panic attack and parental administration of unprescribed opiates in response to rejection is a sign of something going seriously wrong -even in a relationship without a 27 year age-gap. We’ve all had bad break-ups. And they can be very painful resulting in depression, increased anxiety and overwhelming stress. Klelia’s response is extreme and she not only doesn’t have the life experience to manage these emotions, the other party is demonstrating a level of control that she cannot possibly achieve due to her current level of psycho-biological development. Klelia’s response to the potential ending of this entanglement is fundamentally life-limiting; she does not attend the musical summer school which supplements her future chosen career, she cannot eat, and she reports that it is physically painful for her. Orestis continues his life albeit a bit stressed while the adult women in her life normalize the traumatic response to his behaviour by fortune of their similar experience; her mother resorts to numbing her daughters pain with anti-psychotics while the grandmother behaves as though it’s just another Tuesday.
Her mother goes a step further by speaking candidly with Orestis about his relationship. She says her daughter is “not exactly innocent”.
In the context of her family, this is a commonplace remark; the attitude towards women is solidified due to her own experience as a woman burdened by an unhappy marriage that she chose, raised by a mother who had her own tragic age-gap relationship. This seemingly throw-away sentence can seem like a concerted effort at empathetic intervention in an otherwise legal relationship between consenting adults. But when you remove the generations of nostalgia, the insinuation that Klelia’s teenage flirting is, in any way, similar to the motivations of a 46 year-old man actually has a huge impact on how we perceive Klelia’s female vulnerability versus her female autonomy; namely that she possesses more insight into her experiences that could possibly exist for a young woman who grew up in a closed Greek community. It is important that a teenage girl is afforded safe opportunities to explore their sexuality, their impact on the world and the impact the world has on them. The key word here being safe. That is that they are supported, acknowledged, and provided with tools to traverse an unknown social landscape. Klelia deftly throws the accusation at Orestis herself; he is enabling her descent into psychological pain. She is profoundly aware that this could be safer, this could be easier and she wouldn’t be doing this if someone presented an alternative. A suitable response would be “You are absolutely right. I am an adult, you are a teenager. Get out of my car.” Instead we are treated to a moonlit sex scene (with an admittedly gorgeous cover of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love.) Thus reframing the whole event where she exerts some form of awareness of how unsafe she is, as a fraught lovers tiff between equal parties. Really this is a grown adults incapacity for impulse control and conflict management when confronted with a tantrum. It would be wonderful to believe that this is simply “for the drama” but the truth is that women everywhere are forced to accept this reality; From the archaic crime of Eve offering Adam the forbidden fruit, to the insinuation that provocative dress, intoxication or proximity are justifiable reasons for a man to commit sexual assault. Women are indentured to assign or assume some or absolute accountability for the things that men do or don’t do, and suffer the resulting agony without validation or justice. This happens from an age younger than Klelia when the subconscious lessons we give our children are at their most impactful. The female of the species are encouraged to search for reasons they could have controlled the situation from within because, universally and historically, they have been exhibited as “the problem”. Their sexuality, their charm, their intelligence; if a man is attracted to it, powerless to it, or found wanting in comparison to it, then it is intrinsically their fault for merely existing in a man’s world. What is important to realise is that Klelia is being coerced and manipulated by someone she has been trained to instinctively perceive as a more-learned-other due to his adultness. She is also trapped in this circumstance as he is in a position of professional power. Also, while publicly stoic, Orestis clearly has no emotional stability himself- he has a profound fantasy of murdering every single individual at a dinner party with a candlestick. He maintains a strategic emotional detachment from everyone. They tell him stuff- he does not tell them stuff. They give him intimacy, heartfelt lyrics, traumatic details of their lives, in Klelia’s case sex and devotion- and he gives them run-of-the-mill charm and musical curation which he is economically driven by at all times. You can cast aspersions on Klelia based on the fact that she physically throws herself at the man, that she was on Tinder looking for love, that she makes continuous coy glances at him, that she dresses particularly to attract his interest, that she engages in a romantic relationship within her peer-group.
The fact that she is a dramatic flirt is irrelevant. It does not refute that, due to her youth, she is navigating this romance with an already broken compass, shitty tour-guides, and the pre-existing judgement that she is an inexperienced, unwitting tourist. Bad people take advantage of inexperienced, unwitting tourists.
Trust in adult-authority sets the tone of what is permissible and what is not and, in this circumstance, all adults are complicit in reinforcing blame in a person who is entirely ignorant of balanced romantic relationships between a man and a women. And no one is more complicit than the Maestro himself. Orestis flouts all rules in the name of “romance” with no respect for the very real impact it will have on Klelia, especially the aspects of her life that she shouldn’t be worried about because the adults around her should be preserving her future. A key factor in this is that this man is her tutor in her assumed future profession hired to collate a community effort to promote her community. It is not an outright demand for secrecy, but he solidifies the need for it for himself, always highlighting the negative impact their relationship would have and insisting on the concealment of their affairs. To secure his attention, Klelia is forced to isolate herself from just about everybody who can support her effectively and do what they are supposed to do; preserve her quality of life. He knowingly initiates and engages in intimate activities with an individual securing her flattery and attention for himself despite the clear stress and confusion it causes to her. In “fits of passion” he kisses and fondles Klelia only to immediately withdraw. It was “an accident” it was “a mistake”. This is a documented method of desensitizing another to sexual advances and reframes the starting or stopping of these events as outside of his control. This can be exciting in a balanced relationship where you both don’t want to get caught doing the naughty in public…but not for a teenager confined to secrecy. The fault has to lie with someone and the only other person here is Klelia and she internalises this without true understanding of why. It is also distressing that every time this happens, Klelia looks completely petrified! While Orestis directly addresses her wants, he exploits them when they benefit him sexually or morally, and he deliberately ignores her need for honesty or autonomy in her decisions, manipulating her agency through his behaviour. And he, and everyone around Klelia, defines this as “love”. His behaviour is a form of grooming. It is a form of abuse.
We do not automatically associate grooming with fully-grown attractive men towards erudite, talented, beautiful young women. But we should. Because it is. And, because we don’t make that association, it is its own kind of ‘worse’ . The mainstream gaslight, ignored or explained away by mothers and grandmothers to adult-children everywhere for years while ramming anti—psych meds down their throat.
Erstwhile entrepreneur Andrew Tate advertised and marketed the adult-grooming “lover-boy” technique which plays directly on the misogynistic values that underpin the abuse of women everywhere. And he has been formally arrested recognising that this particularly gendered form of psychological abuse is a proven pre-cursor to the physical violence and exploitation of women that takes place behind closed doors. We get to see the potential set-up for Klelia to experience future physical domestic violence within Maestro In Blue’s narrative. Abusers of women have such perceived immunity, that they can actually profit from the systemic abuse and control society has over women. And by framing this behaviour as the “will of women” or “puppy-love” is condemning the behaviour to continue. Greece has already identified that there is a barrier to reporting and has implemented a “panic button” system to alert services to domestic violence taking place within homes where domestic violence might already be taking place. But despite a recognised mistrust in services, and the strong indications of the traditional Greek community “safety net” being additionally limiting to women after-the-fact, the Greek government is still struggling to grasp the reluctance to report throughout the female populace without a concrete indicator as to why. Here is your why: Women are readily condemned as guilty participants in their own abusive circumstances founded in their very upbringing and society. The snide insinuations of their guilt and their culpability speak louder than what that woman is actually experiencing. Combine that will a lack of clear, universally understood language to discuss these things, women have no voice. With this scarcity of an alternate discussion; what woman would willingly walk in to a police station to announce that she is, for lack of better words available to her, guilty? Then she is returned to an environment laden with explicit gender roles beleaguered by the micro-aggressions that rendered her a victim in the first place. The multiple micro-aggressions against women are their own form of deceptive violence. They attack a woman’s self-worth, they diminish her autonomy, they rob her of her determination and drive to succeed. It is an unseen brutality that we condone through silence and compound in childhood. The only way to give it form is through punitive scrutiny of the mainstream idyllic perspectives on the actions of men, say, a much lauded Greek sitcom full of azure waters and intrigue.
We could continue to claim ignorance: He doesn’t know what he’s doing. She does not know what is happening to her. We did not know how to describe it. It is only a tv-show.
That sort of ignorance cannot exist anymore. We know this is not just a tv-show; this type of abuse of women happens every day. We do know what it is; it is abuse. We do know that psychological violence is damaging; it makes nearly the same impact on mental health as physical abuse. We do know the risk of this abuse developing into physical violence; most physical domestic disputes have underlying psychological abuse in tow. He should know what he is doing; he is abusing her.
She should know she is not guilty; she is being abused.
And, most importantly, we know why. And we should be talking about it.
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