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Television crime series, women police, and fuddy-duddy feminism

By Charlotte Brunsdon


This essay argues that Prime Suspect has become a canonical text for feminist television studies and that Helen Mirren's performance of Lynda La Plante's creation has provided an influential template for television, and the broader culture, to imagine what a senior female police officer is like. So Jane Tennison is important not only within the depicted world of the “canteen culture” of the police in Prime Suspect, but also within the broader context of television production where she has demonstrated that crime shows with female leads can be extremely successful. Juxtaposing Prime Suspect with two later “girly” British TV police series, I ask how we might approach the “daughters of Jane Tennison” found in series such as Ghost Squad (2005) and Murder in Suburbia (2004–2006). Are these “postfeminist” shows? I argue that attention to these programmes can productively inform our understanding of what is entailed for women in not being “fuddy-duddy,” and my comments thus engage, in the continuing debate about the utility and periodisation of the notion of “postfeminism.

Topics: HV, PN1990
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2013
DOI identifier: 10.1080/14680777.2011.652143
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