Women are taking the lead in TV crime dramas


Move over, sidekicks — women of modern crime shows are no longer just a companion in pumps and eyeliner.

The L.A. Times recently rounded up a host of examples showing how the leading ladies of CSI-type crime dramas are advancing the portrayal of women cops on television. At least half a dozen of the crime shows currently on television feature smart, strong female leads, a far cry from the days of a portrayed police station filled with dudes, the only female the wisecracking secretary. What’s more, women are taking on the roles of showrunners, writers and producers of these series.

One of the best examples of the new breed of female detective comes from AMC’s The Killing, a show AfterEllen.com tipped viewers off to last week. Based on the smash hit Danish original Forbrydelsen, the heroine is a practical single mother in jeans and sneakers. Veena Sud, showrunner for The Killing, seems relieved to finally have a realistic female lead. “In cop dramas, there’s a preponderance of female cops who wear stilettos, and it drives me nuts,” she says. “It was like, [with The Killing] let’s take every cliché of female detectives and ground them in reality, right down to their shoes.”

Mireille Enos in The Killing

This choice rung true in the show’s homeland, as well. The similarly practical actress of the Danish original, Sophie Gråbøl, has become a role model for young girls there. And fashion holds strong, even where there aren’t a pair of Louboutins involved: the company that manufactures the sweater Gråbøl wears in the series (from Gråbøl’s own closet) says they could not keep up with sweater orders from the show’s fans.

Producers and writers of these crime dramas promise that a spike in female leads does not compromise any of the gore or violence that crime dramas are often known for. Says Sud, “There’s no feeling of ‘Hey, we’ve got this female audience, so let’s put a pot of flowers on the desk. Female audiences are capable of watching really tough, dark dramas as much as anybody else.” Partnerships, too, are employed in these dramas, not for the romantic side plot as much for the character development, shoving another stereotype of women in crime aside.

Female audiences are comprising the majority of these shows fans, too, as the article claims that females tend to watch more television than males overall. And in the case of television imitating life (or life imitating television, whichever you believe), women are cropping up in the crime sector in real life more than ever. The article notes that the lab CSI is based on, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s forensics lab, women make up more than half of the scientists and crime-scene analysts.

Jorja Fox in CSI

If the trend tells us anything, it’s that we can expect these new women of crime shows to stick around, and hopefully maybe inspire realistic and smart female leads in other show genres, too. And no one needs worry that beauty gets a backseat with this trend. We all know that there’s nothing hotter than a smart woman who can hold her own.

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