Ten dysfunctional female TV cops
What a wonderful crop of young women we have in our crime thrillers just now. They are all obsessive, let’s say. Their work-life balance isn’t what it might be. Some stray into the autism spectrum and some claim great chunks of it. I make ten, and counting….
I don’t pretend to say what this rash, outbreak, riff or trope of messed-up young women means or is meant to mean. But it’s there, and I love it.
(My headline cheated: Salander isn’t a cop, but an investigative researcher.)
One could say that Jane Tennison started the rot (a sort of den mother): she was what these youngsters might yet become. One could also say that, like Tennison, Rachel Bailey, Lydia Adams and Katrina Ries Jenson make the case for women cops who suffer very obviously career-based problems: they are normal women stretched to the limit by their devotion to a demanding job. Most of the others would have been mentally-troubled whatever their work.
I’m guessing that young women identify with these characters (at least as much as I used to with Steve McQueen in Bullet).
These women investigators mostly flout authority and convention and all have profoundly messed-up private lives. The subtext may be that females cannot succeed in the work world without breaking the rules, and will be punished for it, at work and in the heart or home. Their female intuitiveness is valued, but its corollary – impulsiveness – also punished (Carrie, Sarah). Some have men, but reduce them to machine satisfaction (Saga and maybe Lisbeth). Some hopelessly adore unavailable men (Katrina). Others mother dysfunctional men (Laure and Rachel).
The appeal of these characters to their creators (or to us) may be that they are (a) feminine avenging angels on the track of screw-up violent men (who often target women) but also (b) that these are young women who have cast off generations of fictional portrayal of women as passive, nurturing, supportive, collegiate, consensual and sensible.
The Chick-dick list
Carrie Mathison (Homeland, US) Bi-polar and then some
Saga Noren (The Bridge, S, DK) Asperger’s and then some
Laure Berthaud (Spiral, FR) Cosmically needy
Linda Wallander (Wallander, S) Depressive (Reality note: this was a doubly sad business.)
Lisbeth Salander (Stieg Larrson saga, S) Presumably Aspergers, and then some, and maybe more
Sarah Lund (The Killing, DK) Deeply sad and obsessive
Rachel Bailey (Scott & Bailey, UK) Woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown
Katrina Ries Jenson (Those Who Kill, DK) Obsessive, sad, w/l balance out of whack
Lydia Adams (Southland, US) A marginal case, maybe. Still, she’s finding finding a man of her own extremel tricky
Jane Tennison (Prime Suspect, UK) Not at all crazy, but w/l balance out of whack, and a pioneer.