march 16-22, 2014: saying goodbye to some of television’s most compelling female characters.
- allison argent (teen wolf)
- audrey bidwell (the blacklist)
- lucy brooks/”jolene” (the blacklist)
- beverly katz (hannibal)
I understand that the networks and writers didn’t band together and say, “Let’s destroy these characters all at once,” but it really does say something that there were at least four significant female characters killed in the last week on cable television. Some of these women were leads, others supporting cast, but all were killed and killed violently.
The response that audiences have had to this varies by character, naturally. Some characters were thought to be killed for shock-value, while others were killed to fuel a male-dominated storyline. Their purpose became emotional-incentive for a male character to leap into hero/vigilante-mode. Their deaths provided emotional incentive, but devalued as the powerful women that they were. Their purpose was ultimately to trigger a quest for vengeance or alarm the audience, and this demeans their individual competencies and reduces them to a motif.
One writer talks of his character’s death with glee. One writer forbade the actress for making a final decision that she thought would be appropriate for her character’s finale scene, for her last words.
Most, if not all, of these characters were strong and self-sufficient. But they weren’t treated respectfully in death. Many were unceremoniously removed from the picture, rather than dying with dignity or a proper fight — only the illusion of one. One particular character will be placed in the centre of a death-tableau. More murder porn. One was shot, died, and disappeared from sight within the course of 30-seconds. This without even mentioning that one show almost killed off two POC in one episode.
It concerns me that these images are continuing to perpetuate our culture with violence against women and male dominance. Female characters are rarely seen avenging their male counterparts, and male characters are rarely seen mourning or behaving sympathetically towards women; we continue to see the aggressive, stereotypically-reserved man and the “strong” woman who couldn’t save herself, but whose death will be justly addressed by the surviving male. The world is already dangerous enough for women. What we need are stories with strong female characters who take care of themselves and survive. We can’t make much progress when the media perpetuates violence against women as an almost-ritual norm, to whatever end.
We are not here to give your men purpose. We have our own. We are not here to die and shock your audience. There are simply too many women reduced to male motivation and plot devices. Give us a chance to fight for ourselves, have our own stories and live our own lives rather than living to make men’s interesting or dramatic.