Silk blouses and fedoras: The female detective, contemporary TV crime drama and the predicaments of postfeminism

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Abstract

This article examines the markedly contrasting fates of two recent female protagonist led police series, the dismally received Prime Suspect USA (NBC, 2011) and widely celebrated The Fall (BBC, 2013– ), asking what the reception of each suggests about the state of play for women in TV crime drama in
today’s postfeminist culture. What do women cops need to do to make the cut in an era in which, on the one hand, it seems they are more prevalent and have more opportunities than ever before (Gerrard, 2014); but also, on the flip side of this, in which they must somehow offer something ‘extra’ to survive in an era where the presence of a female detective in itself is no longer an innovation or
novelty? In an era in which, to adopt Angela McRobbie’s much-cited phrase, ‘feminism has been taken into account’ (2007: 255), how can these series’ invocation of feminism or ‘feminist issues’ be understood as fundamental to their respective demise and triumph? I argue that, crucially, Prime Suspect USA’s account of sexist bullying in the NYPD was greeted as hackneyed and overblown, where The Fall spoke adroitly to a media culture in which ratings can be won via a superficial but glossily packaged nod to the female detective’s postfeminist ‘progress’, while relishing misogynistic violence. Hence the article also asks, what implications does an inquiry of the kind undertaken here – where interrogation of the genre combines comparative text-based analysis with critical reflection on the author’s own perturbed response to the eroticisation of violence against women in The Fall – have for future models of feminist criticism of TV crime drama?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-276
Number of pages17
JournalCrime, Media, Culture
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2016

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