Long have I wondered why Marg Helgenberger’s Catherine Willows shows up to every crime scene looking like she raided her teen daughter’s wardrobe and applied half a trowel’s worth of make-up for a 1am call out to the desert to dig through human remains or pluck through a carpet for suspicious-looking hairs. Thankfully, The LA Times reports that with more women being hired on to write and manage crime procedurals, we may finally see the end of the inappropriately sexy and certainly inefficient wardrobes of top TV female police workers.
Veena Sud, the showrunner of AMC’s The Killing and former Cold Case writer has long shared my gripe:
“In cop dramas, there’s a preponderance of female cops who wear stilettos, and it drives me nuts. I mean, I’m not showing up to work in a poodle skirt.”
So Sud decided that her female character on The Killing need a complete cliche clean-out, from the ground up:
When Sud adapted the AMC series “The Killing,” which is based on the Danish hit “Forbrydelsen” and was also a smash hit in the U.K., she decided that the heroine should wear sneakers. “It was like, let’s take every cliché of female detectives and ground them in reality, right down to their shoes.”
The article goes on to explain that while crime dramas were initially seen as escapist entertainment for men, studios are surprised to learn that their audiences are increasingly female, and more and more women are helming the series once thought to be guy-oriented (even if Spike still has CSI on a permanent loop).
But more to the point: even if this was always escapist fantasy for men, why should it be a requirement that female TV detectives, crime scene workers or police officers arrive at the scene of a crime looking like they just came from a bar? Do crime procedurals require that every woman be sexy — right down to the sexualization of the female corpses? And it’s not just the male gaze that bothers me, it’s the very fact that Catherine Willows’ long, sexy hair, for instance, does direct harm to the task at hand when she’s supposed to be tweezing out stray fibers to piece together a clue while she’s shedding her golden mane all over the area in question. Or the impossibility of pursuit on foot if a ladycop has, for some unknown reason, decided to show up for work in high heels.
I guess my problem is that these seeming mistakes almost makes the female professional seem… unqualified? Silly? Unimportant?
What’s your take? Do the wardrobes of female police workers on TV bother you? Do you think that putting female cops in high heels signals the way we view women in that profession in general?