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Women of the Badge: My Favorite Female Television Cops
When I was a kid I said I wanted to be alot of things. Among the most popular I remember is lawyer and president. Thankfully, I have since changed my mind. For one reason or another I never wanted to be a cop. I think that has to do with the fact I was always a scaredy cat.
However, I did always enjoy watching cop shows. Many of them usually involved a lead male cop but there was the occasional female leader. And what I admired most was the ability for these shows to weave themselves back and forth between the professional and personal lives of the police officers. Now, things have changed.
In 2005, a little show starring Kyra Sedgwick (then known to most audiences as Kevin Bacon's wife) broke the door wide open and gave us a new kind of female officer who was not only brave and bold. But she was in your face to the point she was almost obnoxious. And as we say goodbye to one of television's all-time great cops I would like to dedicate this hub to great women of the badge of the past few years.
Brenda Leigh Johnson: The Closer
I will admit, I was not on the Closer bandwagon for a while. The first season started the summer before my senior year of high school and at that point in time I did not know too much about the joys of cable series during the summer.
However, I caught an episode while on break one year during college and I understood what the fuss was about. Sure Brenda Leigh Johnson, was a fish out of water as well as a tough cookie. I also enjoyed the fact that she was southern and unapologetic about who she was. Not only was she educated and independent she also had an affair with Chief Pope while working with him in DC.
All of this made a great stew for what I consider a great character. Her flaws were noticeable- messy purse, touch and go relationship with her parents, an ex-fling for a boss where there was unresolved tension, and a recovering alcoholic love interest.
And her flaws made her who she was which is why as a viewer it was easy to agree or disagree with what she did as an officer. While her tactics were morally and ethically questionable, they did provide results.
I also enjoyed the fact that the writers did not hide that she was a woman. One of my favorite moments is when she is told that she is experiencing early menopause but then gets a surprise proposal from her boyfriend, Fritz. Not only did they address the elephant in the room- they managed to make it look relateable.
While it will be hard for me to imagine television without Brenda Leigh Johnson, I am glad that we at least have great episodes to keep her alive in pop culture for several years to come.
Olivia Benson: Law & Order: SVU
As much as Law and Order has been important to television in the past two decades, it was in need for a strong female lead. Sure the original serious had the Lieutenant Van Buren but she was really a supporting character to the antics of Lenny and company.
But thankfully for us in 1999, Law and Order got its first and most successful spinoff- Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. And we were introduced to one Olivia Benson. Olivia was unlike any other female cop we had met at the time. Right from the beginning she wore her past and her emotions on her sleeve.
Her mother was a young rape victim and her father was a rapist. Her childhood was marred by the fact that her mother drove herself to alcoholism and Olivia was forced to raise herself. And in that maturity, there was also a vulnerability she was able to share with victims.
In some cases, Olivia is too close to the victim. She grows in emotional attachment by becoming more of their friend than their protector. But in her own way she gets the job done.
Olivia represents a layered character that many women relate to. Her career has served as her life and in many ways the younger victims represent the kids she never had. And Elliott for lack of a better phrase was her work husband- they became each other's lifeline.
But what most people respect about Olivia is the fact she is unapologetic in solving the crime at any cost. And in one episode she risks sexual abuse in order to catch a dirty prison guard. While she does not always play by the rules at least she is consistent in pursuing justice.
The Women of The Division: Raina Washington, Kate McCafferty, Jinny Exstead, etc.
If you do not recognize this next show, I will be glad to give you an introduction. The Division premiered back in 2001 on Lifetime. It was not a big hit but had enough of a following for eighty-eight episodes.
The Division focused on a police precinct in San Francisco that was ran by a female captain and had several female officers. The story lines were the same as in any cop show but had the distinction of featuring a mostly female chain of command. Bonnie Bedelia played Captain Kate McCafferty and had the responsibility of reigning in the younger cops and their antics. The show also dealt with the issues of the policewomen on staff including family, relationships, drug abuse, and sexual harassment.
Also, adding to the cast was the original former Pink Ranger Amy Jo Johnson and standout actress Lisa Vidal. But what may surprise you most was the fact that there were two now heavy hitters on the show. Jon Hamm, yes Don Draper was a cast member during the last season. And Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson was also a cast member near the end of the series.
This show only lasted three seasons but to me it deserved more. Perhaps it was the Lifetime label that steered viewers away or the fact that it did not get the publicity it deserved. It was just as gritty as any other police drama but the reviews did not reach enough people. Whatever, the case this show deserves a second look. Unfortunately, it is not in syndication or on DVD but hopefully that will get worked out soon.