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Is Netflix’s Anatomy of a Scandal Based on a True Story?


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Image Source: YouTube user Netflix

Netflix’s latest thriller series takes a look into the messy, complicated world of politics and the privilege that comes with political power when a scandal arises. “Anatomy of a Scandal” is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Sarah Vaughan and comes from the creators of the acclaimed series “Big Little Lies.”

The six-part series centers on James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend), a member of the British Parliament who often engages in extramarital affairs. One affair in particular, with a woman on his staff, comes back to haunt him as news of the scandal breaks and the woman accuses James of rape. Amid the falling out of the scandal, James’s wife, Sophie (Sienna Miller), is thrust into a media frenzy and her husband’s criminal trial. As Sophie attempts to search for the truth and clear her husband’s name, she finds herself questioning everything.

The plot of “Anatomy of a Scandal” certainly parallels several political scandals we’ve seen in the past, whether in the United States or somewhere across the globe, but is it based on a true story? Here’s everything to know about the inspiration behind Netflix’s upcoming political thriller series.

Is “Anatomy of a Scandal” Based on a True Story?

While the storyline and details of “Anatomy of a Scandal” seem incredibly similar to past political scandals, it’s not based on a singular story or political figure.

What Is the Inspiration Behind “Anatomy of a Scandal”?

Prior to writing “Anatomy of a Scandal,” Vaughan (whose real name is Sarah Hall) was a senior reporter, political correspondent, and health correspondent with the British newspaper The Guardian. Vaughan often saw and reported on scandals in British politics and was inspired by her experiences to write “Anatomy of a Scandal.”

Vaughan opened up about the inspiration behind her novel in a blog post for UK bookstore Waterstones. “While courtrooms and murder investigations helped me to write a thriller, it was through becoming a political correspondent that I became even more conscious of power, privilege, and entitlement — all issues at the heart of ‘Anatomy of a Scandal,'” she wrote. “I watched charismatic, psychologically complex characters at work — and saw how the truth could be obscured. Nuance of language became increasingly important as Number 10 countered allegations that they had ‘sexed up’ of the dossier into weapons of mass destruction. ‘Off-the-record’ and ‘deep background’ introduced layers of meaning beneath the official line.”

In the post, Vaughan also noted that while working, she witnessed how sex scandals played out in the political sphere, specifically mentioning the scandals of David Blunkett and Boris Johnson. In December 2004, Home Secretary Blunkett resigned following news that he’d used his political power to help his mistress obtain a visa. UK Prime Minister Johnson has been riddled with scandal throughout his political career, like in 2004, when it was revealed that he’d had a four-year-long affair with journalist Petronella Wyatt.

“Anatomy of a Scandal” is not based on Blunkett or Johnson but rather inspired by the workings of a scandal in the world of politics. While the show’s storylines aren’t true, they’re nonetheless an insightful display of how privilege, power, and politics play into our society. Catch “Anatomy of a Scandal” on Netflix on April 15, and watch the trailer below.



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