Presenting an unthreatening facade to the world, older women detectives usually conceal razor-sharp investigative skills and intelligence. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple is one of the classic examples of these subversive characters.
AMC's The Killing, which recently concluded its first season and has been renewed for a second, is as close to Twin Peaks as 21st century television gets. Set in Seattle, homicide detective Sarah Linden investigates the murder of a teenage girl. That's it - a single murder investigation carried out over 13 hours of television, filled with red herrings, unfolding motives and dead ends. It introduces us to a strong, career-driven female detective. And the critics (to begin with) loved it: Mireille Enos as Sarah Linden has just been nominated for an Emmy. Amid its other nominations, we have director Patty Jenkins, the only woman contender for outstanding director of a drama series.
But for all this, it pales in comparison to the Danish series it is closely based on, Forbrydelsen (The Crime). The star of the show, Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl), is one of the most interesting detective characters for years, female or male, and with all due respect to Enos and Linden, Lund is in a league of her own.
Video editor Tijana Mamula has watched all ten seasons of Friends (and not in rerun-form over the course of years). Why? The gay jokes. The many, many gay jokes. After a observing drawn-out, homophobic conversation between Joey and Ross, Mamula began noticing the underlying homophobia of the show constantly. Surprised to find no one had made a project from it already, she set to work on an intense video endeavor. Mamula wanted to go beyond showcasing the show's homophobic jokes. "The whole point of this project is to show the very extent to which homophobia pervades the show, and how it changes over the years. It only makes sense to do this if you can give an idea of the scope of the issue."
There is, in fact, ninety minutes'—a whole movie!—worth of homophobic jokes in Friends, as she found. But with some guidelines, and editing with a sitcom-narrative in mind, Mamula cut it down to forty-five. The result was Homophobic Friends.
Welcome to this week's edition of Pop Pedestal, Bitch's series of tributes to characters we love. Today, I'd like to recognize the Greendale student whose favorite film is "a tie between Ghostbusters, An American Werewolf in London, Back to The Future, Blade Runner, Stand By Me, Stripes, Star Wars IV through VI, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Jaws, Raising Arizona, Jurassic Park, Seven, The Matrix, Goonies, Breakfast Club, Real Genius, Better Off Dead, and The Fog of War." I am referring, of course, to Abed of NBC's Community.
Castle is a guilty pleasure for me. I once watched four episodes of the show in a night because it's well-written, witty, and fun—and has some "strong" female characters front and center—so I want to be able to say, just go and watch it right now, don't even bother reading the rest of the post.
But my inner feminist critic has some issues with the show.
Last night's episode of True Blood contained the usual outrageous plot twists and soap opera-levels of drama, which is great and which is why I (and probably you if you're reading this) look forward to summer Sunday nights. However, it also contained a totally fucked-up gang rape scene which the show's creators (and many media outlets) are calling anything but.
All good characters have a complex back story. But what is it with giving female TV detectives a particularly awful past?
By no means is every female investigator on television shown to be "damaged," but I think there are enough to make up an anecdotal trend. This "damage" is usually crucial in explaining why the character became a detective in the first place and why they are so intent on doing their job.
Are there any explicitly feminist crime TV shows? Prime Suspect, which ran on UK television channel ITV from 1991 to 2006, is surely a contender, starring Helen Mirren as Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, a female detective breaking into a male-dominated world. It dealt explicitly with issues such as institutional sexism and racism in London's Metropolitan Police force.
It's being remade for US television, with Maria Bello taking on the role of Tennison.