Turning passion into profession.

Friday, July 13, 2012

In Which I Rant About Fictional Female Law Enforcement

I have a bit of a bone to pick today that centers around the genre of crime/thriller/suspense and the way women are portrayed in the law enforcement field.

Now, before I begin, let me give you a bit of a background on me. I have always been interested in being a part of law enforcement. Ever since I was a little kid I dreamed of donning the blue and brass. When we played cops and robbers, I always had to be the cop. While the other girls were playing with Barbies and dressing up like princesses, I had my walkie-talkie and a hair dryer, standing at the side of the road giving out traffic citations. Seriously, this is what I did for fun! As I grew older, I realized that maybe being a police officer wasn't exactly the right route for me, mainly because I could be outrun by a five-year old and would never pass a police fitness test in my life. But I did my research and I held onto my dream, and that is what lead me to the field of Social Work and Criminology.

Here are another few facts about me:

1. I've never been sexually abused, raped, or molested.
2. I've never witnessed a murder.
3. I've never traumatically lost a family member or witnessed one being tortured, tormented, abused, etc.
4. There are absolutely zero cops in my family.
5. I do not have a military background nor a parental figure I have to impress.

And after all these facts, I still have an interest in law enforcement that just blossomed out of my own want and need. According to the television world, THIS IS WRONG!

Let me explain more about what I mean. In the world of television a female cop, nine times out of ten, HAS to have a reason for becoming a cop. Usually this stems from a traumatic event in their childhood or a need to impress an overbearing, over-accomplished law enforcement parental figure. They can't just have wanted to be a cop. There must be some serious reason that a woman would want to be involved in that career. And all this happens while their male counterparts need no explanation as to why they are who they are.

Here are some examples:

Olivia Benson, SVU: Her motivation for becoming a cop, or more specifically a detective in the SVU, is because she is a child of rape. Her counterpart, Elliot Stabler, is just there cause he's there.

Kate Beckett, Castle: Her mother was brutally murdered when she was in college, forcing her to change her major and become a detective after building an obsession with finding her mother's killer. Her counterparts, Ryan and Esposito, never have had their intentions explained.

Olivia Dunham, Fringe: The only reason she works for the FBI is because she had been conditioned to be a soldier since she was a child, leaving her really no choice. The male agents Charlie and Lt.Broyles have never warranted explanation.

Debra Morgan, Dexter: Grew up craving her father's attention so she decided to follow in his footsteps and become a detective for the Miami PD. None of the other males in the squad have had a similar explanation to why they are cops.

Sara Sidle, CSI: Another foster care case. Abusive father, mother who killed him in front of her. Stokes, Grissom, and Brown have never had their pasts explained.

Catherine Willows, CSI: Saved from her life of exotic dancing by a man, of course, who happened to be a detective and sent her on the path of law enforcement.

And these are only a few examples that I could think of off-hand. Now some may say 'oh, well it's just character development!', and they would be right. It is. But my point is why do females need to have their past that led them to law enforcement exposed when their male counterparts don't? I really do believe passionately in this and see it as a problem in the entertainment industry. Writers need to bash it over our heads that 'she's a cop, but she is still a WOMAN! Look, she's crying! Aw, she has a traumatic past. Her femininity is just spilling all over the place so you can feel comfortable watching a woman portray a person in command.' And this thought process makes me sick.

I still do admire and love many of the woman I've talked about above, but at the same time I can't help but cringe sometimes at the way they are portrayed. They are still strong, independent, smart ladies of the law, and I just wish they were there because it was their dream, not because their past led them there.

Is there anything that gets your blood boiling about the way certain people are portrayed?


  1. Ooh, I love this post :)

    I don't like stereotypes at all, especially in YA. I mean, almost all of the 'popular' guys in my school were nice, and I was friends with a lot of people -- does that make me bad? No (I don't think so).

    Stereotypes are boring. The way to make them great is to break free of them :)

    Great post!

  2. I complete agree with this post. It has always bothered me how females HAVE to have a reason to want to be a lawyer enforcement officer. I like cop shows for the most part, too, but none newer than Castle, since the ones that have come after are just repeats of what has already been done. I think out of all of them, the only one I can think of off the top of my head that didn't have this problem was the original Law & Order. I've seen pretty much every episode and they never gave one of those reasons for why Lt. Van Buren became a police officer (and continued to move up the chain).

    The one stereotype that I can't stand (and come across all the time, because I like YA a lot) is when popular kids, like SC Author mentioned, are just horrible people. It wasn't like that in my school and it really defines logic, if you ask me. Since the only way a person becomes popular is by having a lot of people like them... but if they are assholes, who would like them? The geeks/outcast/non-popular kids always out number the popular, after all.

    Great post :)

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