An Investigation Into the Construction of Gender in Crime Series Television

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An investigation into the construction of gender in crime series television. This paper is going to deconstruct how gender is portrayed in crime programmes on popular television. Focusing on how female characters are represented compared to male characters also looking at examples and comparing these against the challenges of the normal conventions within the crime series genre. This paper is going to analyse shows where the female characters take the lead roles in crime television as well as the male characters. Programmes such as Prime Suspect (Granada, 1991) will be compared to shows such as 24 (FOX, 2001) and Dexter (CBS, 2006), which focus on male protagonists and are programmes that follow very masculine conventions.

Crime television shows several views on society. It can be used as a reflection of reality, representing the world as external to the text meaning that it is a depiction of someone’s view on society not that it is how society truly functions. But this causes problems when created. We ask, whose view of society is the crime series based on? This question causes different opinions. It could be the audience vision of what the current state of society is or, it could be the responsibility of the writers and producers of the programme to decide how society is represented therefore they need to be careful on how it is represented so that people do not take offence or disagree with the programmes images of the world that the show is set in. Another view that can be shown from crime series drama is whether its representation of reality is external but it in fact communicates to the audience through representation, realism of a world that is constructed of characters, settings and storylines that we as the audience may recognise. Representations and views within a TV programme are never innocent they always represent someone’s point of view. Mainly the producers of the show get to choose how the world of the programme is depicted.

Crime series drama relies on verisimilitude to keep the audience connected with the programme, the culture that is used in the storyline has to be generally accepted as credible, suitable and proper other wise the audience can take offence and the programme may come across as controversial. Because Crime television always uses the same conventions for reality, culture when involving setting, characters and storylines this makes them generic; Credible within the boundaries of genre. (Gledhill 1997:360)

The term Masculine is identified by someone being a man that fits into a certain stereotype. Society expects men to act in a particular way which in effect creates this stereotype of males being strong, deep voice, aggressive and acting as ‘real men.’ When it comes to crime television because the characteristics of this genre are very aggressive and ‘real’ it has automatically fallen into the conventions of appealing to male viewers and containing characters, storylines and settings that appeal to the male gender and that relate to males as well ‘as it tends to focus on the public sphere, professional roles and the male world of work’ (MacKinnon 2003:69)

One of the example shows this paper is looking at is 24 (FOX), which is a program set in Los Angeles and follows the life of Jack Bauer who is a leader of a team that has been created in result of the 9/11 in the USA. To begin with the main character is a large stereotype of the typical male protagonist in Crime series television as a man who leads a special unit to fight against numerous terrorist threats, such as nuclear bombs and assassination attempts. This program also follows similarities to ‘The Sweeney’ because this man is seen to have a very troubled home life and will bend and break the rules to protect society. We see already that the codes and conventions have created a common character that is the essence of masculinity. If we compare this character to perhaps a female lead character from a crime television...
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