big sky controversy
Source: ABC

Does 'Big Sky' Glorify the Abduction of Women?

By

Dec. 3 2020, Updated 1:24 p.m. ET

There is controversy surrounding David E. Kelley's new ABC drama Big Sky, which stars Ryan Phillippe and centers on the kidnapping of two sisters on a dark highway.

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The series opens with sisters Danielle (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Grace (Jade Pettyjohn) driving on a dark and lonely road, where they are kidnapped. But it soon comes out that they are just the last pair in a sex trafficking operation that has caused the disappearance of many young women driving down that very highway.

So, what do viewers find controversial about the ABC drama? Keep reading.

big sky controversy
Source: ABC
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The 'Big Sky' controversy, explained.

Big Sky is being criticized for "making the abduction and trafficking of women .... primetime entertainment," as well as for "erasing the real-life tragedy of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) crisis."

"We live with the consequences of this loss and trauma on a daily basis," Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Association (GPTCA) executive director, A Gay Kingman, stated. "But ABC won't even acknowledge it, even after they've been given the opportunity to do so."

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Digital Spy writes that the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council (RMTLC), and several others have also contacted ABC executives and Big Sky producers to let them know about this "unconscionable" oversight.

big sky controversy
Source: ABC
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The outlet explains that, while Big Sky was initially meant to film in Albuquerque, N.M. and Las Vegas, Nev., the COVID-19 pandemic forced production to move to Vancouver, British Columbia. 

But the West Canada region, specifically British Columbia's "Highway of Tears," as it's known by residents due to the many deaths and disappearances on Highway 16, is where many women and girls are targeted and go missing.

And the rates of women who are missing or murdered in the region are 12 times higher among Indigenous populations, according to Brandi Morin, who was lucky enough to escape and flee to safety after being held hostage and raped by two men in their late 20s.

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"There have been approximately 4,000 or more Indigenous murdered or missing women and girls in the last 30 years," she writes about the grim statistics. "That works out to about 133 a year, or three a week."

big sky controversy
Source: ABC
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The Highway of Tears, which is known as one of the most infamous highways in Canada, connects Prince George to Prince Rupert.

A 2016 New York Times piece about the highway wrote about the "dozens of Canadian women and girls, most of them Indigenous, [who] have disappeared or been murdered near Highway 16." 

The most chilling part of it all? A majority of these cases remain unsolved. 

Melissa Moses, a representative for the UBCIC, explained that the "highway is a painful and haunting symbol of the violence destroying Indigenous lives and bears resemblance to the one depicted in The Highway, the novel Big Sky is adapted from."

But, the organizations argue, the Big Sky series delivers an "incomplete depiction of violence against women and girls."

They propose ABC "address and rectify" the issue, for example by including an "information frame" at the end of episodes that could point viewers to resources about Native and Indigenous women and children who have experienced this tragedy.

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