True Detective is the best show currently on television. It’s doing fun things with narrative, features tremendous performances, subverts the traditional detective drama, and goes big with meditations on trying to find answers in a brutal, vile, despicable world. However, the show has been criticized as having a woman problem since almost all of the female characters are either timid, slutty, or of an otherwise unfavorable disposition. While I agree with this assessment, I believe it ignores the overall context of the series (I’ll explain after the jump). Nevertheless, creator Nic Pizzolatto isn’t oblivious to female characters, and he hinted that if season two comes along (it hasn’t been officially ordered by HBO), women might play a more prominent role.
Hit the jump for more.
Because True Detective is intended as an anthology, season two would be an entirely different story with new characters and even a new director. However, Pizzolatto also said in an interview with EW:
It would be great if we could use some of the same actors, like a reparatory company. It would be different characters, different setting. That’s part of the fun of the anthology.
Hey @nicpizzolatto if True Detective looked at feminine characters with the same lens as masculine, it would be PERFECT & MIND-BLOWING.
In a tweet [via /Film] that’s now been deleted, Pizzolatto responded:
@friggenawesome One of the detriments of only having two POV characters, both men (a structural necessity). Next season…
— Nic Pizzolatto (@nicpizzolatto) February 23, 2014
/Film presumes (and I agree with them) that Pizzolatto probably deleted the tweet since season two is unofficial and he probably hasn’t finished writing it yet (assuming he’s even started).
[Minor spoilers ahead]
Personally, while I’m all for strong, female characters, I’m also for putting the story and themes above all else. True Detective is a POV series, and one of the central ironies is you have an investigation into the rapes and murders of women and children and who are the detectives? One is a sociopath who couldn’t protect his own child and the other is deluded philanderer who organizes the world into the chaste (his family—and I don’t think it’s an accident that Marty’s children are girls) and the sexual (Marty’s 20-something mistresses). It’s another way the show is subverting detective dramas—by showing the lack of sympathy on the part of the detectives as not just a distancing mechanism, but a kind of selfishness in the human condition that dehumanizes everyone.
The dilemma with the females in the script is that this is an extremely tight point-of-view show. You’re either in Hart’s point of view or Cohle’s point of view. Any character that is not them runs the risk of being peripheral. There were more scenes with both Maggie and Laurie, Rust’s girlfriend, but because we only had 56 minutes to tell a story, we had to cut. But Maggie, for me, is the most emotionally intelligent person in the show.
To be fair, I would take some issue with Pizzolatto’s assessment of Maggie since I think episode six showed her only as slightly less damaged and fragile as Rust and Marty. I also think director Cary Fukunaga‘s explanation of her behavior doesn’t play in the episode as well he’s describing it, but I can at least understand the intention.
Ultimately, the larger criticism leveled against True Detective for not having strong female characters is a criticism that can be applied to most TV and movies. Additionally, it expresses a desire to have strong female characters that aren’t “physically tough” but as well-written as Rust and Marty. Hopefully, season two of True Detective will provide those well-written women in a narrative that’s just as compelling as season one.