Behind Every Series is a Strong Woman

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We consider the top contenders in the realm of the crime drama to honour International Women’s Day.

The current ‘Euro Noir’ climate of crime series is evident in being a prominent platform for actresses stretching their muscles and dominating television screens with their dramatic prowess. Ayelet Zurer’s portrayal of Dr. Yael Donan is the latest addition to this electrifying movement; starring as a formidable heroine who seeks protection against her family at any cost in the Israeli mini-series Hostages. Yael is a prime example of how the on-going campaign for gender equality is making strides in international modern media.

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The late Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy amplified the concerns of Second Wave Feminism with its original title Men Who Hate Women to promote equality. Sweden’s legislation to dramatically reduce prostitution, violence against women and sex trafficking mimics Larsson’s words and has been transgressive in the protection of females and women’s rights. The female anti-hero Lisbeth Salander, played by Noomi Rapace in the film adaptations, generated global success and paved the way for the strong women in today’s ground-breaking Nordic Noir television.

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The leading stars of Scandinavian crime shows, such as the relentless detective Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) in The Killing (2007-2012) and the no-nonsense Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) in The Bridge (2011- ), have wowed audiences with their mental agility and crime-fighting skills. Lund and Norén’s constant battles with patriarchal politics provided viewers with an emotional and physical journey that showcased their dynamic personalities. The role of a woman in power is boosted with Sidse Babett Knudsen’s Danish female Prime Minister in Borgen (2010-2013), as well as the business-minded Gro Grønnegaard (played by Trine Dyrholm) whose fortitude directs her to get what she wants in The Legacy (2014-).

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In both film and television it is common to masculinise or position female characters as the victim to a superior male counterpart. The duality between maternal instincts and the role of the protector is a typical trait of the strong woman that is often critiqued: these traits are recognisable in each of the crime drama heroines. Academics in feminist studies, such as Laura Mulvey, argue this tradition and are perpetuated in order to make the female’s fictional existence understandable from a mainstream point-of-view, aka. ‘The Male Gaze.’ However, the heroine of the crime drama arguably hones these motivations to show a rounded, human character that encompasses strengths and weakness. This esoteric insight into these strong women has created a resilient richness that appeals to a wide audience and transcend gender inequality that confirms them as television’s greatest heroines.

Watch the series final of Hostages on Saturday from 9pm on BBC Four.