Badass female protagonists are the new black when it comes to television shows. A trend which had its roots in TNT’s The Closer and Fox’s Bones—smart, capable female crimestoppers are ruling the airwaves both on network and cable television.
With premiere week upon us, one can see more powerful women in CW’s Nikita, a remake of the cult classic starring Bridget Fonda so many years ago. Other fresh female faces of force make themselves known through Annie Frost (nice name), the badass US Marshal who, in the opening scenes of the pilot episode of Chase, single-handedly takes down and cuffs a fugitive. Returning to us this fall is Castle’s homocide cop Kate Beckett, the ice queen who’s followed around longingly by the boyish Nathan Fillion, a playful foil to the serious Beckett.
Chase joins TNT’s Rizzoli and Isles, another chick-cops are cool babefest, which is brought to you by the ghosts of Cagney and Lacey past and Annie Walker, the below-the-radar hottie CIA spy who sometimes unwittingly outsmarts and outmuscles the bad guys in USA’s Covert Affairs.
Smart, policey-gals are everywhere, sometimes following protocol, sometimes breaking the rules, always winning the fight against evil, and always looking good while doing so. I’m delighted and dismayed (dambivalent) at these heroines: glad cuz they’re always on the right side, trying to do the right thing; unglad cuz they’re perfect size fours who can run in heels.
Then there’s Holly Hunter. You might remember her from such films as Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou, Home for the Holidays, and The Incredibles. But for three years, TNT did a brave thing: it cast Holly Hunter in the role of Oklahoma City Detective Grace Hanadarko, a crimestopper with all the serious flaws her name suggests. Where she excels in her professional life she fails in her personal life. She’s got a guardian angel to guide her, but episode after episode she continues on the same destructive pattern of drinking too much, smoking too much, hating too much, and sleeping with a married man. The show has explicit sexual content and can be very violent, which is a nice change from the can’t-get-a-date (too-busy-too-cold-too-emotionally-unavailable) stereotype of television female crimestoppers who leap tall buildings in a single bound without breaking a heel.
Detective Hanadarko is a woman in crisis, constant crisis, and needs the protection and guidance of her guardian angel. And yet she’s still very good at her job.
Alas, after four seasons TNT has pulled the drama, and we’re left with crimestopping females (cool!) with perfect hair, perfect nails, perfect bodies, and a strict moral code (uncool…). We need imperfects like Hanadarko around to remind us it’s ok to be a mess.
Just as long as you’re trying.