Editors: Tanya Horeck (Anglia Ruskin University, UK), Jessica Ford (University of Newcastle, Australia), Anna Backman Rogers (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Anna Misiak (Falmouth University, UK).
MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture invites academic authors with expertise in television studies and other related disciplines to contribute to our upcoming special issue on female detectives on TV.
For decades now, the female detective has occupied space within a genre that has been all-too-often reserved for the celebratory storylines of self-sacrificial men. She has served to break down sexist barriers placed before women within professional and personal frameworks, acting as an on-screen surrogate and inspiration for (female) spectators. The popularity of female-led TV crime drama across the world points to her success in captivating widespread audience attention.
The topic of women in TV crime drama has inspired a range of significant feminist scholarship (see, for example, Pinedo 2019; Coulthard, Horeck, Klinger, McHugh 2018; Greer 2017; Buonanno 2017; Moorti and Cuklanz 2017; Steenberg 2017, 2012; Jermyn 2017; Weissman (2016; 2010; 2007); McCabe 2015; Turnbull 2014; Brunsdon 2013; D’Acci 1994). This work has examined female-led TV crime drama from a variety of angles, including transnational cultural exchanges and currencies, serial form and narrative, gender, class, sexual and racial politics, and postfeminist identities and logics.
Certain series such as The Killing (Denmark 2007-2012, US 2011-2014), The Bridge (Sweden 2011-2018, US 2013-2014), The Fall (UK 2013-2016), and Top of the Lake (NZ/Australia 2013/2017), have been singled out for how their female protagonists (Sarah Lund/Sarah Linden; Saga Noren; Stella Gibson, and Robin Griffin) resonate with viewers across transnational borders. Meanwhile, on primetime episodic US TV crime drama, Mariska Hargitay’s 21-year stint as Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (US 1999-present) – the longest-running live-action TV series in American history – has turned her into a ‘touchstone figure’ (Moorti and Cuklanz 2017). Hargitay’s real-life activism, and her dedication to fighting sexual violence against women, has attained important cultural recognition, like Law & Order: SVU itself has received renewed critical consideration in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Notably, though, the female detectives mentioned in the above paragraph are overwhelmingly white. What shifts occur in the genre when a non-white female actor helms the main role as a detective? What new possibilities, for example, are opened up by the emergence of black female legal investigators and detectives on network series such as ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder (US 2014-2019) and online TV series such as Netflix’s Seven Seconds (US 2018)? And to what extent is TV crime drama able to meaningfully engage with issues of intersectionality and the precariousness of social justice in twenty-first-century society?
This special issue seeks to build on the existing body of feminist writing on women in TV crime drama, through a further investigation of the figure of the female detective at this critical juncture for feminist television studies. What new feminist visions of the female detective have emerged with changes in industrial practices and the growth of online streaming and niche television? How does the female detective of streaming TV compare to the images of the female detective found in the middlebrow crime dramas of linear TV? In an era of networked media in which popular feminism and popular misogyny (Banet-Weiser 2018) are more intertwined than ever before, what notions of empowerment are articulated through the figure of the female detective? To what extent does the female detective enable exploration of central issues regarding female subjectivity and political resistance against systemic forms of violence?
We hope to open further debate on the subject of the female detective in all her guises. Staying true to MAI spirit, we are seeking papers written from intersectional and multivalent feminist perspectives. We hope this issue not only examines the figures and representations of women crime investigators on the screen but also situates their work in related social, cultural and political contexts.
Our definition of the female detective is broad and inclusive. She can, but doesn’t have to be a private eye or a police professional, just as long as she pursues social justice or truth.
While analyses of current and recent examples seem to be an obvious priority as far as contribution to the field knowledge of visual culture analysis, we also welcome papers on female detectives from the past.
In particular, we would like to encourage authors to consider submitting articles on the following titles:
- Seven Seconds
- How to Get Away with Murder
- Killing Eve
- Top of the Lake
- The Fall
- The Bridge
- Veronica Mars
- Prime Suspect
- La Mante
- The Killing
- The Wire
- The Closer
- Happy Valley
- Jessica Jones
- The Bletchley Circle
- Loch Ness
- Cagney and Lacey
We recognise that there are many more titles of interests, and the list could run quite long. If you wish to propose a paper on any other TV title, please get in touch with the editors to discuss your suggestion: firstname.lastname@example.org
We plan to publish this issue in the first half of 2021.
300-word Abstracts due:
30 May 2020
4000-6000-word Full Papers due:
1 December 2020
Please consult the MAI submission guidelines before submitting
Please send your abstracts and forward responses to this call to email@example.com
Deadline for submission of abstract: 30 May 2020