Sunday, March 04, 2012

No more lady detectives

Gone are the gentle days of Miss Marple and Mma Precious Ramotswe of the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Nowadays televisual female detectives are tougher than men, with the added bonus of being able to cry if things get really bad. The new female detective has no time for burdens such as husbands, partners, children or friends. Her work is her life and she won't let anything else get in the way. She may have a few problems and lack a social life; she'll possibly have an addiction or two, but nothing she can't handle.

The precedent was set by Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect in the 1990s and 2000s, playing Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, competing in an all-male environment. She had a drink problem and an inability to form lasting attachments. Next followed The Closer (2005 to present), heavily influenced by Prime Suspect, starring Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief of Police Brenda Leigh Johnson.

More recently has been Lisbeth Salander (introverted, anti-social) from Stieg Larrson's Swedish Millennium series; Sarah Lund (taciturn) from Danish crime series The Killing; Katrine Ries Jensen (anti-social, lonely) in Those Who Kill and now Carrie Mathison (bipolar, damaged, annoying) in Homeland, currently showing on Channel 4 on Sunday evenings. Even programmes with less-than-realistic premises, such as sci-fi show Fringe, features the cold and tough yet lonely workaholic FBI 'Fringe' agent Olivia Dunning.

I personally think they're all boring. This trend for women detectives is fair enough, good on 'em, it's a backlash against a usually all-male macho environment and makes a change to the usual boozing, sexist male cop. But let's flesh them out a bit, enough of this 'my work is my life' scenario, let's be controversial and have one of them – oh, I don't know – happily married with kids? In other words, less Cagney and more Lacey.

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