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Gender And Sexuality In Crime Tv

2330 words - 10 pages

The portrayal of gender and sexuality in crime television has evolved over the past six decades. Some aspects stayed the same while others have changed for various reasons, ranging from changing stereotypes to the media. Indeed we are living a new era, one in which women are gradually moving away from their gender role, strongly depicted in the 50’s and 60’s. However, the media's power lies in its popularity and the palatability of what it presents to the audience – ratings and financial gain matter more than change. In the past women in crime television series had never been portrayed as the heroes who save the day, but as either the woman who stood behind the male police officer, a ...view middle of the document...

As time went on, strong women in leading roles began to make an appearance in the “traditional” law enforcement role. Today’s depiction of women in crime dramas owes a great deal to the then-risky programming behind Cagney and Lacey (1982), in which neither the never-married Cagney nor the wife-and-mother Lacey needed protecting.

Although a great deal of headway has been made since the birth of crime television in the late 1940’s, women continue to be cast as victims in these crime shows thus closely conforming to the accepted gender role of women as the weak and fragile, emotional, submissive, primary caregiver of the children and the rest of the family. A woman role in many societies is limited only to marrying a good man, having his children and thereafter serving him faithfully. As stated earlier times have changed but a lot stays the same. Women and children are portrayed as weak and vulnerable against criminals, who are usually men. This issue is not at all limited to the fictional accounts in crime television series but everyday in the News where the mother – not the father – of the victim is asked to make a statement. This imagery further reinforces the stereotypical woman as subordinate to man and as child-like (Gould, 1983), which could explain woman’s natural ability to care for her children. In the past, these victimized women were usually white and attractive, which confirms J. Marion Sim’s theory that white women were weak and therefore could not withstand his experimentation (Kapsilis, 1997). In this case the women are weak and fragile and therefore able to attract sympathy from the viewers. Most times that often, these depictions of women by media and television go a long way in reflecting “proper” gender roles in society. The lead female characters on CSI: Miami and Law and Order: SVU are strong and intelligent women who are capable of reasoned decision-making. Olivia Benson of SVU is a tough, warm, and caring person who is sometimes overwhelmed by the horrors she sees in the discharge of her daily duties. By working in the Special Victim Units she is faced with shocking cases of child molestation, rape and physical abuse. Despite the difficulties that Benson faces in her chosen career, she feels compelled to continue with it because she defines herself by being the product of her mother’s rape. By putting the criminals in prison she finds a sense of justice for her mother who dies not knowing who raped her. Calleigh DuQuesne of CSI: Miami appears to be cool and untouchable, drawn by the logical and technical aspects of her work rather than by the need to feel a sense of pride within it. While Benson apparently worked her way through the ranks of the NYPD to earn her position, DuQuesne was offered her position based on her reputation as a ballistics expert (Associated Content, 2007). Interestingly, both Benson and DuQuesne share one thing in common: each detective has an alcoholic parent, with whom these characters have...

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