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30 Days Of Telly #15

Day fifteen, your favourite female character. Hmm. That's not an easy question. I don't know if it's a common problem with television in general, or just the shows that I watch, but it does seem that television isn't very good at women. Either they don't bother with them to begin with, or they have them, but ignore them. Or kill them. Or sack them for not being men. Or combinations of the above. So whereas with the guys I was spoilt for choice, with the women... not so much. Not that there aren't good ones, obviously. Victoria from The High Chaparral was awesome, although admittedly she did have to stay at home a lot and let the men have most of the fun. Blake's 7 had some great female characters, although admittedly, of the four of them, only Dayna was ever actually allowed to do anything. Buffy and Angel had a lot of really good female characters between them, although admittedly they seemed to share an alarmingly limited lifespan. Babylon 5 had Ivanova, but I can't choose her on principle, because she ran away and cost us Marcus. So it was going to be a two horse race between Delenn from B5, and CJ from The West Wing. And then I remembered somebody very special.

Back in the eighties, it largely sucked to be female and on the telly. You were mostly there to be rescued by men, or to get dressed up nicely and go out to dinner. Or die on Tenko. But then, suddenly, there was Harriet Makepeace. Dempsey & Makepeace was Britain's answer to American cop shows. It was unutterably ridiculous, and featured fleets of cars smashing into things, frequently whilst airborne; more guns than all other British TV shows combined; and more explosions than was even nearly sensible. (I loved it). And whilst Dempsey did probably win the Blowing Things Up award, Makepeace did a brilliant job of keeping pace. And she fought with swords. Not often, I'll grant you, but a lot more often than the average British police officer manages (or the average female TV character, for that matter). In a world where female characters mostly stood back and let the men have the fun, she wasn't so much a breath of fresh air as a wildly energetic hurricane. So I choose Makepeace. With the obvious exception of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it's insanely hard to think of another action show with a woman who gets as stuck into the fights and stuff as much as she did. That's really rather sad.


( 12 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Jun. 30th, 2013 04:54 pm (UTC)
Hmm,let's see -- Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman in the Avengers, Buffy and Willow from BtVS, Aeryn Sun and Zhaan from Farscape, Delenn(always) and Ivanova (most of the time) from Babylon5... is 6 enough? Xena and Gabrielle, there that's 8. Liz Shaw, Sara Jane Smith, Ace and Donna from Doctor Who. It's hard to stop at 1.
Jun. 30th, 2013 05:13 pm (UTC)
It is supposed to be my favourite, though; not just a good one. That rules out "The Avengers" and "Farscape", as I don't know them. With "Doctor Who", the only one who came close is Barbara (I never did like Sarah Jane). Fond as I am of Nyssa, she was never given anything to do, and I haven't seen enough of Liz Shaw to judge. Willow was a possibility though, certainly.

It really did make me think just how few of the shows that I watched growing up had any women in them at all, certainly that actually did anything exciting. I'm glad I was never looking for female role models as a kid.
Jul. 1st, 2013 02:54 am (UTC)
I was going to mention Farscape too - Aeryn would be up there in my short list of how to answer this question - and its fabulous women characters (there's Chiana and Jool, Sikhozu, Granny and Grayza, many of whom grew on me. And the ship, Moya.)

My knee-jerk reaction would be that things have improved in the action/adventure with a dose of fantasy/sci-fi TV, but have they, really? Once Upon a Time revolves around female characters and has them in the fray of things. I haven't watched Nikita, but that's about female charaters. But then I could list a lot more male-centric American shows that are on now. In the UK, Hunted had a female lead, doing things that we'd mainly seen men do in Spooks, while the women are always playing supporting roles in the Dr Who/Merlin/Robin Hood slot. Maid Marian and her Merry Men seems extravagantly radical now.
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:28 pm (UTC)
"Doctor Who" is a good example, because for all RTD's assurances that his female companions were going to better than the old ones were, they still seem to do exactly what the old ones did: look pretty and ask questions! River Song is the only one allowed to properly take control, and she only visits occasionally. I don't watch a lot of modern TV though, which doesn't put me in the best position to judge. "True Blood" does well. New "Dallas" has some really good older female characters, but the younger ones are a bit lacking.
Jul. 2nd, 2013 03:15 am (UTC)
Of the shows I've watched this year in other genres, The Good Wife, Nashville and Parks and Recreation have multi-dimensional women as main characters supported by other female characters of various types who get to do their own thing. Borgen features two strong female leads and comedy shows like Miranda and The Mindy Project centre around fictionalised versions of their creators - Miranda is better about female supporting characters.

And all of those things are a part of why I watch/have watched those shows.
Jun. 30th, 2013 05:43 pm (UTC)
Any of these characters could be my "favourite" on a given day - certainly Mrs Peel, Aeryn Sun, Delenn are always top 3. From when I was a kid, though? Even then, I get Emma Peel and Catherine Gale, Uhura from Star Trek
Jun. 30th, 2013 06:27 pm (UTC)
But Uhura never did anything! She was an admirable idea, poorly used.
Jun. 30th, 2013 06:20 pm (UTC)

Female character when growing up... probably Wonder Woman. I admit to doing the spinning round three times thing.

I understand you counting out Ivanova, but her 'God sent me' speech is up there with Delenn's 'Be somewhere else' speech.

Love Dempsey and Makepeace. I missed all but one episode of the first season because it was on Guide night and we didn't have a video then. Caught up when they got repeated though.
Jun. 30th, 2013 06:29 pm (UTC)
I do love Ivanova. I just have a job letting her be my favourite, because of the way it ended - which is probably unfair of me. JMS does write some awesome dialogue though. Just thinking of so many of those scenes makes me want to get the DVDs out again.
Jul. 1st, 2013 10:54 am (UTC)
Leela? OUAT has a lot of female characters getting into fights with various weapons. And Cathy Gale in 'The Avengers' because Steed/Patrick Macnee wasn't very good at fighting! Honour Blackman wrote a book on judo as well. The American networks didn't like the idea of a kick-ass woman so Emma Peel was less violent in colo[u]r, boo.

I think the best place for fighting female characters is in soaps!
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:31 pm (UTC)
I don't know. I've never been able to take the "Avengers" women seriously. Skin tight leather catsuits?! They don't strike me as good female characters - just eye candy. I haven't seen much of the show though, I admit. "The New Avengers" is a bit different. Joanna Lumley was pretty cool in that.
Jul. 2nd, 2013 10:16 am (UTC)
Cathy's leathers were quite baggy I thought. Cathy was pretty cold at times and never got punished for it which she would have done in something else. Women are meant to be all smiley and accommodating and Cathy wasn't.

I liked the way Purdy co-ordinated her Laura Ashley dresses with her safety shorts underneath. Floaty yet practical for fighting. Did have a tendency to get kidnapped in her underwear though.
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