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date: 29 February 2024

Feminist Themes in Television Crime Dramasfree

Feminist Themes in Television Crime Dramasfree

  • Nancy C. JurikNancy C. JurikSchool of Social Transformation, Arizona State University
  •  and Gray CavenderGray CavenderDepartment of Justice and Social Inquiry, Arizona State University


The academic literature notes that male-centered protagonists dominated the crime genre (novels, film, television) for many years. However, beginning in the 1970s, when women began to enter the real world of policing, they also began to appear in the crime genre. Scholars describe how in those early years, women were depicted as just trying to “break in” to the formerly male world of genre protagonists. They experienced antipathy from their peers and superiors, a situation that continued into the 1980s. In the 1990s, television programs like Prime Suspect addressed the continuing antipathy but also demonstrated that the persistence and successes of women protagonists began to change the narrative of the crime genre. Indeed, some scholars noted the emergence of a feminist crime genre in which plot lines were more likely to address issues that concerned women, including issues of social justice that contextualized crimes. Not only was there an abundance of women-centered genre productions, there was a significant increase in academic scholarship about these protagonists. Some scholars argue that once women in the crime genre reached a critical mass, some of their storylines began to change. There was a tendency for women to be seen as less feminist in their career orientations and more like traditional genre protagonists, e.g., brooding, conflicted, and oppressive. Plots abandoned social justice issues in favor of more traditional “whodunits” or police procedural narratives. The same darkness that characterized men in the crime genre could now be applied to women. Some scholars have argued that a few feminist-oriented productions continue to appear. These productions demonstrate a concern not only with gender but also with issues pertaining to race, class, sexual orientation, and age. For the most part, these productions still center on white, heterosexual women, notwithstanding some attention to these larger social matters.


  • Crime, Media, and Popular Culture


The crime genre has enjoyed an enduring popularity across time, mediums, and nations. Regardless of the country, television schedules on most nights feature several police dramas. The New York Times Sunday Review of Books bestseller lists and similar listings in other countries typically include a number of crime genre novels. Estimates are that between 20% and 25% of book sales in the United States are of crime fiction (Cavender & Jurik, 2012), and similar figures characterize bestsellers elsewhere. Designations such as “Scandi-crime” or “Nordic noir” reflect the popularity of crime fiction in Scandinavia, and novels in these designations often are global bestsellers.

Notwithstanding the staggering book sales of writers like Agatha Christie whose character Miss Marple seems to be as popular as when she first appeared in 1927, the crime genre has historically been a male preserve. P. D. James reflected on this pattern in the ironic title of one of her detective novels, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972). James’s protagonist, Cordelia Gray, inherits a detective agency from a male mentor before embarking on an unusual career (for a woman) as a private investigator/detective (PI).

Perhaps it is a further irony that in the decades since An Unsuitable Job for a Woman was published, there have been steady increases in crime genre productions written by or about women. It seems that each decade enjoys more women-centered crime stories than the last one (Mizejewski, 2004). Women in crime genre productions are depicted across a gamut of occupational categories: FBI agents (or their counterparts in other countries), forensic pathologists, police officers, police detectives, and PIs. These characters appear across mediums, from novels to film to television. Cordelia Gray appeared in James’s novel, a film, and a television series.

With the growing presence of women as police or PI protagonists, scholars have argued that a distinctly feminist crime genre has emerged and greatly enhanced the popularity of crime productions (Klein, 1992; Mizejewski, 2004). Cavender and Jurik (2012) have argued that a number of women-centered television crime series, such as Prime Suspect (Granada Television) have stressed not only feminist-oriented themes but also broader social justice themes focused on issues of race, class, and sexual orientation. Klein (1992) specifically connects the developing feminist crime genre to broader social justice concerns. The media analyses of Cavender and Jurik (2010) posit a heuristic model of progressive moral fiction for use in reviewing and teaching about fictional media productions. The model highlights ways that media productions can reveal the often hidden experiences of socially marginalized individuals and identify connections among crime, victimization, and social structural inequalities. Progressive moral fiction also includes insights into the ways in which a single character or group might challenge an unfair legal system or other social problems.

Numerous analyses of woman-centered crime genre productions argue that feminism in media productions is under attack in the postfeminist era (Brunsdon, 2013; McRobbie, 2009). Postfeminist productions tend to construct worlds in which sexism and racism have been overcome such that women have gained full parity with men. Alongside portraits of successful, but often alienated, female police investigators, there are graphic displays of the violent victimization of women and girls. Television and film critics hail these productions for being appropriately dark and realistic. Their popularity on television and in film is in contrast to the low ratings and criticism of the programs that continue to portray sexism in the criminal justice system (Jermyn, 2016a). These trends have caused at least one media analyst to re-evaluate the worthiness of the genre (Jermyn, 2016b).

Literary critic Kathleen Klein (1995) once noted that PIs, especially those of hard-boiled writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, were so misogynistic that being a fictional PI really was “an unsuitable job for a woman.” Today, series featuring television police protagonists have largely replaced PI-focused programs. However, two female PIs, Veronica Mars and Phryne Fisher, offer hope for the potential of a feminist crime genre both on television and in other crime genre mediums.

Literature Review

In a genre landscape rich with international successes, such as Prime Suspect and Forbrydelsen (The Killing) on television and Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy in novels and on film, it is good to remember that female protagonists were for years a rarity in the crime genre. A few police women appeared in British novels in the 1860s and in U.S. dime novels in the late 19th century (Klein, 1995, pp. 18, 24), but these female police detectives were mostly outliers.

The same situation prevailed in the real world: women were rarely police officers unless they were relegated to all-women’s police bureaus, where they performed social-work-type duties focused on women and children (Martin & Jurik, 2007). Beginning in the 1970s, however, a number of trends began opening up police patrol and investigator positions to women. The changes included feminism and the women’s movement, federal legislation prohibiting sex discrimination, funding criteria that increased the numbers of police officers and required the implementation of affirmative-action hiring and promotion practices, and scandals about police brutality and corruption (Martin & Jurik, 2007). Gender and racial inequality in policing remain significant, although a diverse police force is less of an anomaly in large cities.

As more women entered the occupation of policing, initially as patrol officers but then moving through promotional ranks, women increasingly appeared as fictional police officers. The 1980s were a watershed moment for women-centered crime genre productions. Three popular television series characterized the women’s crime genre during the 1980s: The Gentle Touch and Juliet Bravo were set in England, and Cagney & Lacey was set in the United States.

The Gentle Touch (1980–1984) followed the career of Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Maggie Forbes in her assignment to a police station in London. The series addressed socially relevant issues that confronted the police, as well as Forbes’s home life. In Juliet Bravo (1980–1985), Inspector Jean Darblay was assigned to a less urban police station. This series was more a police procedural in that it emphasized the routines of the police organization (Cavender & Jurik, 2012). Although both protagonists experience some opposition as women, they succeed as police officers. Cagney & Lacey (1981–1988), featured two female police officers in New York City. It was a ground-breaking series that presented both traditional crime stories and socially relevant topics that were especially interesting to women. Cagney & Lacey won several Emmy awards. However, the series faced numerous challenges, from attempts by producers to make the characters more upscale to plans for cancellation. Loyal fans generated a strong lobbying effort, including a letter-writing campaign from the National Organization for Women (NOW), and for a time, saved the series (D’Acci, 1994).

The success of those women-centered police dramas in the 1980s paved the way for Prime Suspect, a British television police drama that began in 1991 and ended in 2006. It was not a weekly series; instead, it was shown in seven mini-series installments over its 15-year run. Prime Suspect starred Dame Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennison. In the initial episode, despite excellent qualifications, Tennison is refused assignments to head investigations because she is a woman. Only when a male colleague dies suddenly is she allowed to head a murder inquiry. She experiences sexist reactions from superiors, subordinates, and citizens. Even so, Tennison leads her team to a successful resolution in the case.

Subsequent installments of Prime Suspect addressed other important social issues, ranging from racism and homophobia to an anti-immigrant bias among the police. The series addressed notions of justice, for example, what constitutes justice and how policing can and should effect justice (Cavender & Jurik, 2012). Prime Suspect was interesting because its longevity allowed DCI Tennison (and Helen Mirren) to age; the series was able to portray an officer’s career from that first case to retirement. It also depicted the trials, tribulations, and successes of a woman working in the traditionally male occupation of policing.

Cavender and Jurik (2010, 2012) developed a research and pedagogical model criminologists and media scholars could use in analyzing crime genre productions. It posited that works of progressive moral fiction transcend individual-level etiologies of crime to examine the experiences of socially marginalized individuals and to locate everyday injustices in the context of the societal arrangements that give rise to personal troubles and wrongdoing. Progressive moral fiction goes beyond cynicism and despair to offer visions of protagonists working with others to question legal definitions in an effort to promote social justice.

The Prime Suspect series exemplified some of the key elements in that ideal-type model of progressive moral fiction. That is, it often offered nuanced insights into the lives of socially marginalized individuals (e.g., women in a male-dominated occupation, Bosnian immigrants, and victims of war crimes), and it also conveyed a sense of the ways in which their experiences were connected to organizational and societal problems. To bring victims justice, Tennison challenged unjust legal practices and police organizational arrangements, although typically by working within the criminal justice system. She saw the humanity and importance of victims and citizens whom other officers dismissed as unworthy of service or protection. At the same time, as critiqued by others, Prime Suspect also presented the victimization of women in a more graphic manner than had previously been seen in crime television. The forensic realism that Prime Suspect so emphatically portrayed presented jarring images of the brutality inflicted on women (Jermyn, 2010). Additional criticisms (Cavender & Jurik, 2012; Jermyn, 2010) were leveled at the final Prime Suspect episode, which portrayed Tennison as she ends her career—alone, isolated, plagued by alcoholism, and jealously hostile to the family needs of her junior women staff. Tennison succeeded in her policing, but at the cost of human affection and attachment—the classic message that women cannot have it all.

Prime Suspect was a tremendously popular program. This multi-award-winning series aired in the United States and many other countries, and some installments drew 200 million viewers (Cavender & Jurik, 2012). After the British series ended, a U.S. version was aired and failed (Jermyn, 2016a). Prime Suspect’s creator wrote a prequel novel, Tennison (La Plante, 2015), which introduces women’s police Constable Jane Tennison at the start of her career.

Just as Prime Suspect benefited from the police dramas of the 1980s, many women-centered television police dramas followed in the show’s wake in England, the United States, and around the world. Both the newer women-centered series and male-protagonist-led programs carried forward the forensic realism of Prime Suspect, exhibiting even more graphic displays of violence and action-oriented scenes. Television series centering on female protagonists often construct them as deeply flawed yet accepted members of the police team. These series often reveal the darker side of human nature, including that of the criminal and the police, and in some cases, as it manifests in political and corporate corruption. Although there are notable exceptions to these trends, some of the most successful and critically praised series exhibit these tendencies.

Although the highly anticipated U.S. version of Prime Suspect was short-lived, other women-centered police dramas have successfully moved from one country’s television to another’s. For example, Forbrydelsen, marketed as The Killing, was popular in Denmark (2007–2012), its home country, and the original series was also a hit in England and Europe. A police procedural, Forbrydelsen featured an investigation by Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Lund (Sofie Grabol) of the brutal murder of a 19-year-old woman. During the first season, there was one season-long story arch; each episode focused attention on a different suspect and on the impact of the murder on the victim’s family. A U.S. remake of The Killing ran for four seasons (2011–2014). Both series offer repeated images of brutal acts of violence against women that are juxtaposed with a capable yet deeply troubled and emotionally isolated protagonist (Jermyn, 2016b; see also Cavender & Jurik, 2014).

Forbrydelsen’s international popularity is noteworthy, first because Scandinavian crime fiction has become successful around the world, as reflected in the nickname “Scandi-crime.” For example, Norwegian Jo Nesbo’s crime novels have sold 23 million copies worldwide, and his novels have been translated into many languages. Second, some popular Scandinavian crime fiction is either written by or is about female protagonists; hence, its other nickname “femi-crime.” Swedish journalist and crime novelist Liza Marklund has written eight novels (some have been made into films) whose main character is a female investigative journalist. The novels have reached number one in book sales in Sweden, across Europe, and in the United States. These Scandinavian works exude a dark sensibility. The dark portraits of suspects, police, and outcomes presented in such series are emblematic of the noir-ish character of the hard-boiled tradition within the crime genre.

Perhaps the best-known examples of Scandi-crime are the three novels in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, which have sold 80 million copies (Erlanger, 2010). The films based on these novels (produced in Denmark and the United States) have grossed approximately $400 million worldwide (Dawtrey, 2011; Box Office Mojo, 2012). A fourth novel in the series—The Girl in the Spider’s Web, written by David Lagercantz after Larsson died unexpectedly—was the top-selling novel in the world. Larsson’s protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, is neither a police detective nor, exactly, a PI. She does engage in investigatory work. Although the computer and the Internet are Salander’s tools of choice, she can be both aggressive and violent, especially toward men who abuse women.

The darkness in the subject matter of the trilogy centers on the serial rape and brutal murder of women and Salander’s own graphic victimization (rape), first by a doctor in the psychiatric hospital for children where she has been placed, and later by her court-appointed guardian. The obvious subtheme here is that governmental authorities are of little help to women victims; indeed, they may be the cause of the victimization or are at least complicit in it. Salander, a distinctly antisocial person, seeks her own brand of justice against such people, for example, stealing the fortune of one rapist via the computer, subduing and then brutally tattooing the word “rapist” on her guardian, and secretly filming and later discrediting the child psychiatrist who had raped her.

The vicious, antiwomen plots in Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy have received a good deal of scholarly attention, for example, the collection Men Who Hate Women and Women Who Kick Their Asses, edited by Donna King and Carrie Lee Smith (2012). Chapters in the collection address such questions such as whether the depictions of violence against women are so hurtful as to be little more than voyeurism and whether the trilogy and Lisbeth Salander are indeed feminist.

The Millennium Trilogy has generated interesting discussions about feminism because of its popularity, and because Lisbeth Salander is such an unusual protagonist: she can masquerade as an elegant woman, yet is otherwise unconcerned about her clothing; she is bisexual; she is a computer geek with shadowy hacker friends; she is a victim of horrible acts committed by her father, as well as by representatives of dominant social institutions; her responses are coldly calculating and extremely violent; she is an unstoppable force. Larsson suggested two origin stories for Salander. One creative origin grew out of his musing about what Pipi Longstocking, the girl heroine in a series of Swedish children’s books, would be like as an adult. Pipi was unusually strong and strong-willed; she used her powers against villains who were unfair and exploitative (Loe, 2012). Second, Larsson described a real event from his youth when he saw a girl being gang-raped and did not come to her aid (Martin, 2012). His guilt reflected the realization of real-world violence against women; indeed, his novels include actual statistics about violence against women (De Welde, 2012).

Feminism was partially responsible for facilitating women’s entry into the criminal justice system decades ago and perhaps for the appearance of characters like Lisbeth Salander, whose own victimization makes her sensitive to the victimization of other women. Fictional characters such as Salander and the female police officers seen on television in the 1980s and 1990s have promoted discussions about an emerging feminist crime genre (Klein, 1992). It is not only that female characters have appeared or replaced men, but also that even within the traditions of the crime genre—a crime, a detective, a quest—women have changed the genre. The outcome of violence is more realistically addressed. Prime Suspect, for example, ushered in a turn in television police drama toward forensic realism, wherein the effect of male violence on women’s bodies was treated with respect but was also a motivating factor in DCI Tennison’s quest for justice (Cavender & Jurik, 2012). Similarly, Stieg Larsson’s failure to help a real rape victim motivated his concerns about the victimization of women, as well his creation of a fictional protagonist who is a feminist avenger. Whether in Cagney & Lacey or Prime Suspect, the feminist crime genre frequently features plots that deal with socially relevant issues, especially issues that have resonance for women (Klein, 1992). Yet despite the portraits of competent women investigators who bring victimizers to justice, the continued focus on graphic portrayals of violence against women troubles feminist analysts of crime fiction.

Lisbeth Salander is a far cry from Officers Cagney and Lacey or DCI Tennison. Those fictional characters appeared in the crime genre at a time when women were entering the criminal justice workforce, moving up the occupational ladder, and experiencing challenges from coworkers and the police hierarchy. The crime genre is a cultural artifact and, as such, reflects its time period (Cavender & Jurik, 2010; Lenz, 2003). Feminism and the women’s movement were an important force in women’s entry into former male occupations, and in female protagonists’ appearance in the crime genre. Today, we are in a different period in the real world and in the fictional crime genre. There are widespread beliefs that the social movements of the 1950s–1970s have led to a color- and gender-blind society in which there is equal opportunity. The story of Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium Trilogy reflects critiques of liberal feminism that challenge the reliance on and legitimacy of the state to prevent women’s victimization (Crenshaw, 2011; MacKinnon, 1989). Indeed, Salander’s story reveals the integral role of state power in the production of women’s victimization.

One line of attack, called postfeminism, posits that feminism succeeded in the real world, so there is no longer a need for it (McRobbie, 2009). Postfeminism, which is aligned with neoliberalism, elevates consumption and an individualistic stance on identity; class consciousness disappears (Press, 2011). Many fictional crime presentations reflect such themes. Referring to “the daughters of Jane [Tennison]”—that is, the women-centered television police dramas in the early 21st century—Brunsdon (2013) notes the appearance of “girly women cops.” The British police dramas Ghost Squad and Murder in Suburbia are grounded in a “girl culture” (Brunsdon, 2013). In Ghost Squad, being a “girl” is, essentially, the police detective’s disguise. To maintain her cover, she flirts, breaks the law, and makes racist comments like the men. Rather than challenge the male system, she “fits in” so she can “bust” the bad apples. Murder in Suburbia features a lighter-hearted “girly” storyline. The lead police investigators are friends, concerned about their relationships with men, and “into” nice clothes. Brunsdon (2013) suggests that the series is a sort of parody juxtaposing stereotypically feminine police officers as effective solvers of violent crimes that take place in seemingly peaceful, affluent suburban households. Television analysts have criticized the series for the triviality of its lead characters.

Jermyn (2016a) argues that a postfeminist orientation also explains, at least in part, why Prime Suspect USA (2011–2012) failed. According to Jermyn (2016a), television critics argued that the conceits of the program were outdated: inequality, sexism, and the glass ceiling could no longer sustain a television drama in the United States. Critics were especially negative about protagonist Jane Timoney’s (played by Maria Bello) wardrobe. Bello had argued that today’s television female police detectives were too well-dressed, too coiffed. Instead, she dressed down for the part, and even wore a fedora like the hard-boiled PIs.

Although it was assumed that classic male PIs would be well-dressed, in suit, hat, and tie, reviews of woman-centered productions seem to be uncommonly preoccupied with the protagonist’s apparel. Versions of Sarah Lund’s sweater in The Killing were a fashion rage. Jane Timoney’s fashion choices were linked to the program’s downfall.

Television critics hailed the British police drama The Fall and characterized it as a wonderful feminist crime program. They especially liked Stella Gibson’s (Gillian Anderson) low-cut silk blouses. According to the critics, Gibson’s sexy blouses epitomized today’s career woman, who is not afraid to look attractive or have sex with whomever she chooses (including subordinates; see Jermyn, 2016b). Jermyn (2016b) suggests that The Fall was consistent with a postfeminist sensibility, whereas Prime Suspect USA violated critics’ views that feminist concerns were passé.

Press (2011) argues that despite the commonsensical claims to the contrary, there are continuing problems of violence toward women and serious imbalances for women in terms of social and economic power. However, these issues are not typically addressed in today’s woman-centered crime productions. Similarly, race has been shown to be a serious issue for people of color who are part of investigative teams, but they are still rarely featured as central protagonists in crime dramas (Cavender & Jurik, 2010). Neoliberal ideologies have promoted the view that discrimination based on gender, race, and class is no longer prevalent in the workplace, and this sentiment is often reflected in crime dramas. Fears of global terrorism, religious wars, and political instability and deadlock, which are featured in some productions, may promote the popularity of more productions with a dark, hopeless sensibility. The popularity of law-and-order ideologies has increased since the 1970s and is reflected in the prevalence of police-driven television series over those that are PI driven (Lenz, 2003).

Yet this trend is not monolithic. There are crime genre productions that remain feminist and address social issues from positions of intersectionality, addressing injustices related to gender, race, class, and sexual orientation, and also economic and political corruption. Good examples of this approach occur in television crime dramas featuring PIs. It may be that because the PI is an outsider in the criminal justice system, the private detective subgenre can offer more opportunity to address issues of social marginalization than the police procedural subgenre can.

Private Detectives

For many fans, two iconic images define the crime genre. Sherlock Holmes, with his pipe and deerstalker, hat immediately comes to mind. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created his character in 1874, and Holmes continues to be a pervasive force in popular culture in the early 21st century. The second image is that of actor Humphrey Bogart portraying either Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade or Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe: he wears a suit and matching fedora and smokes a cigarette at night on a rain-slicked street. Both images are of PIs; both are of men. Except for Holmes, the PI has largely been replaced by the police detective on television and in film. Although men PIs are popular in novels, they have receded as main characters in television crime programs. However, the PI remains a significant avenue for communicating feminist themes in television as well as novels.

Women are PI protagonists in several very popular mystery novel series: Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone (in the alphabetically titled series that has reached the letter X) and Sarah Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski (mysteries that are adept at dealing with socioeconomic issues). We will discuss two different television female PIs who both exhibit a feminist sensibility and several dimensions of a progressive moral fiction. We argue that the protagonists in each series reflect some of the concerns consistent with more recent intersectional feminist approaches (e.g., Crenshaw, 2011; Romero & Valdez, 2016). Intersectional analysis focuses on the ways in which multiple dimensions of social identities, including gender, race and ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and age, converge to shape experience and opportunities. Two series are discussed that break with the dominant style of forensic realism, heightened graphic displays of violence, and hyper-troubled and isolationist protagonists. Two television PIs—Veronica Mars and Phryne Fisher—offer a respite from the perpetual darkness and postfeminism imagery of series like The Killing (both versions) and The Fall. To some extent, they also present an imaginary of what it is possible for women to accomplish.

Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars conforms to many elements of the traditional noir PI, though she is located in a unique setting. Despite a history of victimization, she is a strong, capable, and resilient investigator who confronts contemporary social problems as they effect everyday troubles in the lives of her peers. The episodes portray the nuances and complexities of the problems the show addresses but typically offer hope that something can be done to right the wrongs and challenge the injustices Veronica uncovers.

Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is the junior partner in Mars Investigations. Like P. D. James’s Cordelia Gray, Veronica learned the PI trade from a male mentor, her dad, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni). Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the series is that Veronica is a student—at Neptune High School during the first two seasons and at Hearst College during season three. However, she has more in common with Philip Marlowe than with classic girl sleuth Nancy Drew. Like Marlowe, Veronica is a PI in Southern California. The similarities are more than geographical. Both are loyal to clients, fearless, and will bend the rules to secure justice. Both are masters at repartee and wise cracks. She has been compared to the classic noir PI—like Sam Spade, Veronica “fights her battles with a quip in her heart” (Wilcox, 2011, p. 49).

Despite her youth, Veronica shares with Marlowe, Spade, and other classic PIs a world-weary cynicism. Her cynicism is understandable: her best friend, Lilly, is murdered; her dad loses his job as sheriff because his investigation into Lilly’s murder has angered wealthy citizens; elite high school peers ostracize Veronica; her alcoholic mother, Lianne, abandons the family. Finally, Veronica is “roofied” (drugged) and raped at a party attended by the elite kids from Neptune High School. Veronica is not destroyed by these horrible events; rather, her mantra is “get tough, get even.”

Although Veronica does investigative work for her dad, her own clients are her high school peers, typically the nonelite students. Their cases are solved in weekly episodes. There also are season-long story arcs, for example, who murdered Lilly? As the cases unfold, their format resembles a classic PI format: episodes begin and end with Veronica’s first-person narrative voice-over. Her language in these voice-overs is flat and stylized; it is what one commentator calls “Chandler-esque” (Turnbull, 2010). In the same noir linguistic style, she also narrates flashback sequences that reveal important information. In the pilot episode, Veronica asks, “Want to know how I lost my virginity? So do I.”

As in the classic noir subgenre, the series critiques dominant social institutions, but with a more contemporary and intersectional twist. Veronica constantly runs afoul of the wealthy in Neptune, students and their parents, people who hold power over her at school (e.g., some teachers and the high school principle), and law enforcement, especially the sheriff, who is incompetent and corrupt. A background example of this critical noir sensibility is Hammett (Gores, 1975), an homage to the PI subgenre wherein Hammett the writer, a former Pinkerton detective, solves a fictional mystery. When his mentor asks Hammett who runs things in San Francisco, his response is—the cops, the crooks, and the big rich. A student running for student council makes a similar comment in Veronica Mars. “The rich kids, they run things around here. They’re the minority and they’re corrupt. They get away with murder.” Similarly, in a voice-over, Veronica references social class, “This is Neptune High. If you go there, your parents are millionaires, or they work for millionaires. Neptune High—the school without a middle class” (quoted in Wilcox & Turnbull, 2011, p. 9).

In addition to issues related to class and power, there are episodes that deal with sexism, racism, homophobia, and bullying. In the 14th episode of season 2, Veronica is hired by several students after a private website that questioned their sexuality was used to blackmail them. During her investigation, Veronica learns that at least nine gay or queer students, some of whom we know from previous episodes, are being blackmailed. One blogger fan described the plot by saying, “This doesn’t happen on television. That’s not to say that this episode is without a couple problems, but oh, lord, it’s like I’ve been dropped in the queer candy story because I don’t have to imagine the queerness on the screen anymore” (Oshiro, 2013). Veronica foils the blackmailer and refuses to take a fee, though the group offered one. The culprit was himself a gay man trying to profit off his friends, an aspect that deconstructs traditional victim-offender binaries (Oshiro, 2013).

The traditional noir PI is a loner. In contrast, although Veronica is an outcast to some of her peers, she has a circle of friends. Wallace Fennel (Percy Daggs III) is a black student who, when first he is introduced, is taped, naked, to flagpole on campus. Veronica gets him down, and they become friends. Wallace also works in Neptune High’s administrative office, and he helps Veronica by pulling confidential records. Cindy “Mac” Makenzie (Tina Majorino), a computer geek, also an outsider, is Veronica’s friend. Veronica has some computer skills, which she uses in her investigations, but she calls on Mac when higher level skills are needed. Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra), is the Chicano leader of a biker gang. He is sometimes Veronica’s opponent, but there is always a grudging respect between them. Veronica has a nemesis, later turned lover, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), an elite student, who is a troubled young person, in part because of his family’s wealth and ineffective parenting. The confluence of wealth and bad parenting is a theme throughout the series (Leavitt & Leavitt, 2011). Finally, although Veronica’s dad Keith is her boss, they share a close bond. Depictions of a loving father and daughter are a rarity, not just in the crime genre, but in teen-oriented series generally. Their relationship was recognized when the series won the Family Television Award, in 2006 for “Favorite Father and Daughter” (Turnbull, 2010). The series supports Klein’s (1992) observation that female protagonists are not as alone as the protagonists in the male-centric genre. Veronica is tough and capable of taking care of herself, but she also has friends and a dad who loves and trusts her.

Veronica Mars (Warner Brothers) aired for three seasons (2004–2007). During seasons 1 and 2, the series aired on the United Paramount Network (UPN), a cable network that was in partnership with Viacom. As was the case with Cagney and Lacey (D’Acci, 1994), Veronica Mars enjoyed a loyal fan base, and they lobbied to keep the series on the air after the merger of UPN and Warner Brothers. Later, when word spread that series creator Rob Thomas was trying to raise money to finance a Veronica Mars film through a Kickstarter funding project, 91,000 fans contributed $2 million in just 12 hours; eventually $5.7 million was raised for the film (Dargis, 2014). Two Veronica Mars novels were also published: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Thomas & Graham, 2014) and Mr. Kiss and Tell (Thomas & Graham, 2015).

Veronica Mars combines the elements of the PI subgenre with a teen coming-of-age melodrama (Turnbull, 2010). The series storylines attend to the issues that make high school years complicated and problematic. In so doing, they adopt a critical youth studies perspective. This perspective envisions research as being conducted with rather than on youth populations (Prior, 2013). The youth-centered stance occurs, in part, because Rob Thomas is a former high school teacher. He often overheard conversations among his students wherein they discussed important issues, for example about relationships or peer pressure. Their discussions were infused with references to literature, music, and pop culture (quoted in Laverly, 2011). That youth speak this way is consistent with other research (Prior, 2015). This language is the lingua franca of Veronica Mars.

The issues presented in Veronica Mars are never simple matters of teen angst. They are complex and reflect the larger social world, for example, negotiating class conflict as teens (Leavitt & Leavitt, 2011). The series also frequently addresses issues of racism. Veronica’s friends cross racial and ethnic lines, but equally important, Veronica Mars does not adopt the color-blind position that often appears in television police drama (see Omi & Winant, 2015). Both plots and the dialog attend to racial distinctions, and in so doing, add a sense of contemporary reality to the program. In one episode, a black student seeks Veronica’s help after a teacher has accused him of theft. According to the student, the teacher’s evidence is that the student was “lurking,” which she describes as “standing while black” (Wilcox & Turnbull, 2011, p. 12). Weevil is also the subject of racial profiling, in the community and by the police, and Veronica works to exonerate him. These scenes resonate with frequent claims of black people about being under surveillance at stores and the excessive use of police violence against them. Although early noir productions addressed race, they did so in a negative and stereotypic manner (Abbot, 2002). In contrast, Veronica Mars depicts high school students who are dealing with issues of race, and the plots often challenge racial stereotypes. According to one commentator, the series “provides a safe space through which teens can explore the troubling issues that affect their lives as they move from childhood to adulthood” (Emmerton, 2011, p. 127).

Veronica Mars is also important because of its sensitive treatment of rape. One commentator notes that rape has become something of a trope in academic and self-help literature; but notwithstanding the importance of this work, what is sometimes missing is the materiality of the experience of rape (Whitney, 2011). Veronica talks about her rape in voice-overs. Although she employs the flat prose of the PI subgenre, her thoughts and comments are compelling in terms of how the experience is so damaging to victims. Veronica essentially interacts with the rape literature, describing the textbook accounts of the purification rituals victims perform but then explaining why victims (herself included) perform these rituals. Wardrobe is used to illustrate Veronica’s transformation: pre-rape flashbacks show her with long hair and dressed in pastel colors, frilly teen fashions; post-rape, her hair has been cut short, and her outfits consist of conservative slacks and jackets. She even walks differently (Whitney, 2011). Veronica conveys the materiality of that horrible experience.

The series grounds crimes within the larger society, and the depiction of Veronica’s rape is no different. She connects her rape to problematic but nonetheless common assumptions about masculinity. Veronica eventually learns who raped her, but she also learns that the young rapist was goaded into the act by insults and challenges to his masculinity. He was vulnerable to these insults because he had been sexually abused by his male coach (see Whitney, 2011).

Consistent with some feminist critical legal studies approaches (e.g., Crenshaw, 2011; MacKinnon, 1989), the series also raises questions about the legitimacy of the police and laws to protect and serve. When Veronica reports the rape to the sheriff, he insults her. Veronica thus experiences the double victimization—from her rape and from the criminal justice system—that often characterizes the rape experience. Veronica changes as a result of these experiences, and the changes entail more than her appearance: she becomes an avenger, “a Fury” (Beeler, 2011). Veronica becomes a feminist protagonist who understands the marginalization of girls (and later, women) and the limitations of the police, and tries to do something about it.

In season 3, Veronica investigates a serial rapist on the Hearst College campus. The storyline could have been pulled from today’s headlines. Surveys estimate that as many as 20 percent of female college students will be victims of attempted or completed sexual assaults. Often, these crimes are not reported to the police, either because the student fears negative a social reaction or, as in Veronica’s case, that the police will not believe her (Budd, Gundy, Muschert, & Ward, 2016). Indeed, these fears are well-founded: universities and campus police have done little to address campus rapes (Germain, 2016). Veronica investigates the campus rapes and discovers the culprits.

Although the crime genre is sometimes criticized for being formulaic, it can generate higher quality productions (Cavender & Jurik, 2012). Veronica Mars deals with a variety of social issues through humanizing and often nuanced portraits of socially marginalized students and often troubled elite students. Although victimized, Veronica is an empowering figure who forms a community of friends and family who aid her in quests to right wrongs. In dangerous situations, she is usually able to defend herself. Most episodes offer hope and reveal actions a teen-age girl can do to promote justice. Violence against women and children occurs but is not a constant feature of the programs; many plots feature male victim, as well as female victims, and do not always entail violence. Veronica’s solutions and achievements may be more aspirational than real, but the program provides a forum for the treatment of issues affecting high school students and the broader society. The series has its dark moments, but largely, it offers hope in terms of challenging social injustices, especially as they affect youth.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

At first glance, the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries series seems to exhibit many of the features that are consistent with what has been referred to as the Golden Age of detective fiction from the 1920s to 1930s, represented, for example, by Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey, and Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe (Symons, 1992). A deeper look reveals that the series actually pushes back against those PIs, especially against assumptions from that era about social class, race, and sexuality. Phryne Fisher is an independent woman who investigates crimes that resonate with past and contemporary social issues, for example, class, race, and gender. She is a champion who challenges injustice.

Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) is a self-styled “lady detective” living in Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1920s. Although she is an amateur, she is serious about the work. Her backstory is that she grew up in poverty, but now is wealthy. Her father moved up the ladder to inherit wealth and a title because all of the men ahead of him in that hierarchical line of succession died in World War I. Phryne also served in World War I, as a nurse and ambulance driver in France. She even experienced shell shock, a condition that sometimes resurfaces when she confronts violent situations.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2012–2015) is a television adaptation of the novels by Kerry Greenwood, an Australian barrister. The conceit of the series (and the novels) is that Phryne, who has lived in Europe and England since the war, returns to Melbourne because she was bored by life among the aristocracy and wanted to work on her first case (Greenwood, 1989). Phryne’s inherited wealth and war pension make her financially independent, so she can ply her craft as a PI without worries about whether clients will pay their fees.

The temporal setting and her amateur status are reminiscent of characters from the Golden Age. Phryne has been likened to Lord Peter Wimsey, whose wealth and fondness for expensive clothes and a cocktail are accompanied by his work as an amateur PI (Knight, 1997). Interestingly, the fictional Phryne Fisher reads and comments on the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries but provides a far more critical slant on class relations. She also reads and frequently references Miss Marple. The series playfully invokes Agatha Christie in Phryne’s asides, in settings, and even in the names of some characters. At the same time, Phryne repeatedly distinguishes herself from that character. She is not a spinster who solves crimes through logic and her knowledge of human character based on life in a small village; Phryne epitomizes the flapper of the Jazz Age, of which she is a part. She is an urban, liberated woman who wears her black hair in a slick bob; her clothes and make-up also reflect the flapper style. Phryne is an independent woman of action, sexually and politically, as well as in how she faces danger in her investigations. Whereas others have likened her to Lord Peter Wimsey, Phryne’s creator, Kerry Greenwood, sees her as a “Jane Bond” (Johnson-Woods & Franks, 2015). Since the end of World War I, she has been a secret agent and a nude model in Paris and climbed Kilimanjaro; she carries a gun, drives a fast car, and flies an airplane (Taddeo, 2016). The series is less a “cozy” than a hybrid of the crime genre: police procedural and action adventure (Ryan-Fazilleau, 2007).

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is an expensive production, costing one million dollars per episode (Taddeo, 2016). The costs reflect location shoots and also the attention to detail in other aspects of the series, for example, sets and wardrobe. The crime genre has long-been known for its verisimilitude (Cavender & Jurik, 2012), and this series is no exception. Costumes, home interiors and the like are meticulously true to the period. Phryne has as many as 15 costumes per episode, and fans donate clothes and jewelry to add to the authenticity of the series (Leslie, 2013).

In style of dress and other features, ranging from home decor to architecture, the Jazz Age reflected the French Art Deco movement. These features are a part of the mise-en-scene of Miss Fischer’s Murder Mysteries and give the series its look and texture. However, Art Deco was more than a mere style; it also entailed a commitment to and belief in “social and technological progress” (Leslie, 2013). This world view characterizes Phryne Fisher, who is always “the most progressive person in the room” (p. 19). Thus Phryne avoids the criticism that Jazz Age flappers were just party girls out for fun (see Taddeo, 2016). Phryne gets pleasure from her clothing, for example, but she dresses to please herself. As she tells her friend and assistant, Dot, “A woman should dress first and foremost for her own pleasure . . . if these things happen to appeal to men, that’s a side issue” (quoted in Taddeo, 2016, p. 55). Her choice of sexual partners is her business as well, a matter that is consistent with the series’ liberated Jazz Age setting, and also consistent with contemporary society, for example, Phryne uses birth control. Phryne resexualizes the Golden Age desexualized PI, a stance that challenges the Golden Age detectives while also imbuing her with agency (Taddeo, 2016).

The ideas that women have agency and are their own person are aspects of feminism. Phryne’s feminist views are at the heart of the series. Her feminism includes not only the choice of cases she investigates, but her investigative style. Kerry Greenwood created Phryne to be an “unapologetically feminist” character (quoted in Taddeo, 2016, p. 53). Greenwood has noted that whereas contemporary female PIs and police detectives suffer from guilt and gnawing self-doubt, Phryne is a character with “boundless self-esteem” (quoted in Johnson-Woods & Franks, 2015, p. 4). Her adopted label—“lady detective”—is a play on so-called women’s crime stories of the late 1800s and early 1900s that had titles such as The Experiences of a Lady Detective (Johnson-Woods & Franks, 2015; Klein, 1995). Because Phryne is so “un-Marple,” the series essentially subverts the structure of the Golden Age detective, challenging the taken-for-granted class structure, as well as the sexism, racism, and homophobia assumed in that era (Ryan-Fazilleau, 2007).

Even though it is a period piece, the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries series exemplifies many features of the feminist crime genre. For example, although Phryne Fisher is an independent woman, she is not a loner like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe; rather, like Veronica Mars, she has a circle of friends. Phryne’s circle includes her maid, Dot Williams (Ashleigh Cummings), Bert Johnson (Travis McMahon) and Cec Yates (Anthony Sharpe), two men who work for her as drivers and do odd jobs, Mr. Butler, her butler (Richard Bligh), and her best friend, Dr. Elizabeth (Mac) Macmillan (Tammy McIntosh). As with Veronica Mars’s friends, these people help Phryne with her investigations. For example, Dot, who is very shy early on, assumes an increasingly greater role in the investigations, sometimes going “undercover.” Phryne rarely introduces Dot as her maid, calling her “my assistant” instead.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is consistent with the model of progressive moral fiction in that the series connects crimes with broad social problems of marginalization and inequality. According to one critic, the puzzles that Phryne solves are “devices through which social and cultural issues are explored” (Leslie, 2013). These issues include the plight of immigrants in Australia, employment discrimination, human trafficking, back-alley abortionists, homophobia, and child abuse. For example, in the first episode in the series, “Cocaine Blues,” Phryne is almost killed capturing a major cocaine dealer, and she also helps to identify and arrest an illegal abortionist who preys on poor young women, sometimes leaving them near death. In “Death at Victoria Docks,” Phryne investigates a murder during a labor strike and learns about the plight of Latvian immigrants. She discovers a sexually abused orphan in “Murder on the Ballarat Train” and adopts the girl as her ward to protect her from further abuse and shield her from the vicissitudes of child welfare organizations. Throughout the series, Phryne is a feminist and champion of the poor and the socially marginalized. She is also critical of the opulent lifestyle and privileges of the elite, who often are portrayed almost in caricature in the series (Ryan-Fazilleau, 2007, pp. 60–67). Though wealthy, she recalls the conditions of poverty, for example, hunger, and is egalitarian and conscious of the working class (Ryan-Fazilleau, 2007). She is leftist in her politics; her employees Bert and Cec are dedicated communists. Her experiences during World War I have left her fearless in the face of danger. At one point she tells a colleague, “I haven’t taken anything seriously since 1918” (quoted in Taddeo, 2016, p. 53). At the same time, she also understands the lasting effects of the war on returning veterans.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries was very popular in Australia: it attracted one million viewers per episode (Taddeo, 2016). After the second season, in part due to the costs of production, the Australian Broadcast Company indicated that it would not renew the series. In large part as a result of a prolonged campaigns by fans of the series, a third season was produced. Fans also participate at Miss Fisher costume exhibitions and art deco and fashion festivals (Taddeo, 2016).

One reason for the series’ popularity is that it foregrounds Australia. As is often the case in good crime fiction, place becomes a character in the story. Australia, especially Melbourne, figures prominently in Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries. Unlike other Australian crime fiction that is heavily influenced by U.S. writers and situations, Phryne Fisher revels in the Australian landscape, Australian characters, and events (Knight, 1997). Series creator Greenwood has suggested that one of her roles in the television series was to maintain the historical accuracy of the scripts (Dillon, 2012).

A second reason for its popularity is that, though the series is set in the past, it resonates with contemporary issues that confront Australia and countries beyond. As a result, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is an international hit: it airs in 120 markets, including England, France, Canada, and the United States (Leslie, 2013, p. 18). One critic suggests that Phryne’s investigations appeal to our 21st century sensibilities (Taddeo, 2016, p. 52).

In a way, these two reasons for the series’ popularity—its sense of place and its contemporary sensibility—sometimes come together. As a cultural dominion, Australia engaged in its own brand of racism and ethnocentrism, but Greenwood’s novels and the television series challenge early colonial discourses. For example, in “The Castlemaine Murders,” a Chinese character tells Phryne the story of Thomas Cooke, a white constable who risked his life to protect Chinese immigrants who were being threatened by angry Australian gold miners (see Ryan-Fazilleau, 2007, p. 68). In “Death before Wicket,” Phryne deals with racism against the Aboriginal people and the theft of their land. One scholar notes that Phryne does not simply deconstruct the old, white Australian imperial discourse; she “proposes a more positive version that includes minorities in the national community” (Ryan-Fazilleau, 2007, p. 68). This rewriting of history is both a spoof and an upending of the sort of narratives that grounded the Golden Age of detective fiction, narratives that accepted social structure as a given.

Phryne works to help socially marginalized populations; however, given that she exists fictionally in 1928, her options to effect social change are somewhat limited. In this, she is a kind of pathway to imagine what might or will happen later historically. At the same time, she pushes others around her to work toward socially just resolutions notwithstanding law and prevailing customs. In “The Green Mill Murder,” photos of homosexual lovemaking threaten to destroy one of the lovers. Phryne angrily tells her friend Detective Inspector (DI) Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) that the man’s arrest will produce “a jail sentence for loving someone.” DI Robinson cannot undo 1920s laws against homosexuality, but he is compelled by Phryne’s argument and gives her the incriminating photos so that she can destroy them (see Leslie, 2013, p. 24). Such episodes parallel current issues about sexuality and marriage. Indeed, the series addresses sexuality, from Phryne’s choice of multiple partners to her friend Mac’s career vulnerability as a physician because she is a lesbian. Throughout the series, Phryne Fisher works to produce justice; she is a feminist avenger, what Ryan-Fazilleau calls a repriser, a neologism that means to mend. Ryan-Fazilleau (2007) argues that Phryne “mends disreputable events and attitudes of the past” (p. 69). This sometimes involves solving cases; at other times, it is simply a matter of her treating others with respect and fairness.


Despite some exceptional writers and characters, for many years, the crime genre was largely a man’s world: fictional police officers and PIs were mostly men. Beginning in the 1970s, however, as women entered the real world of policing, they entered the fictional world of the crime genre as well.

Women’s entry into the fictional world was heralded as an emergent feminist crime genre. Instantly, women were not mere substitutes for male characters, they altered the genre. Plots addressed social issues, many of which were relevant to women, and protagonists were not always loners. They, their friends, and their stories were embedded in the larger social fabric. Violence was not so gratuitous: it was either reduced or its affects were treated as genuinely hurtful.

If one were to point to one landmark in the television crime genre for women, it would be Prime Suspect. The award-winning series made women’s place at the table seem normal. Ironically, however, Prime Suspect ushered in another shift in the genre: forensic realism (Jermyn, 2010). DCI Tennison was respectful of victims—certainly more so than were iconic male protagonists were—and their victimization motivated her to solve crime. The series employed visual techniques that promoted a sense of empathy between the victim and police detective (Cavender & Jurik, 2012).

As Prime Suspect moved through its long arc, DCI Tennison changed. She became embittered, isolated, and, in the final episode, was an alcoholic whose drinking reduced her skills of detection. In the years following Prime Suspect, the situation of female protagonists in the crime genre tends to more closely resemble that of Tennison in her decline. Graphic displays of violence brutally visited on the living and its aftermath, depicted in gruesome detail, are increasingly the norm of critically acclaimed television police dramas. Similarly, even when female protagonists are portrayed as competent, they are increasingly isolated and alienated, as are the famous male protagonists; their narratives more closely resemble those of the male-centric crime genre. Women’s demons drive stories more than do society’s fault-lines. Characters like Sarah Lund (Sophie Grabol) in The Killing and Elise Wassermann (Clémence Poésy) in The Tunnel are applauded for exhibiting tendencies toward Asperger’s syndrome rather than toward empathy.

Perhaps this shift in mood in the crime genre stems from traditional conventions of the genre and has simply overwhelmed the best instincts of the feminist crime genre. Or perhaps the attacks of 9/11 and a continuing onslaught of bad news regarding economic polarization and further terrorist incidents globally have created a contemporary structure of anxiety (Brunsdon, 1998) that the crime genre reflects. Whatever the explanation, the tenets of neoliberalism and postfeminism inflect genre productions that are more individualistic and less social.

Although in the media whatever sells generates clones, there is still room for interesting and more aspirational outliers. Accordingly, in this paper we have featured two women PIs who challenge popular conventional portrayals of troubled characters and storylines of hopelessness.

On the surface, Veronica Mars and Phryne Fisher are altogether different characters: one is (initially) a contemporary high school student living in Southern California; the other is a flapper, ca. 1928, from Melbourne, Australia. Their differences notwithstanding, they share much in common. Both have been hit hard by life, but have not buckled; instead, they are strong and resilient women. They have friends on whom they can depend, they are feminist, and they right wrongs.

The treatment of intersecting forms of advantage and disadvantage in both series is somewhat consistent with the concerns of intersectional feminist approaches. The wrongs that hurt people are not treated as merely individual matters. Rather, both programs address social issues that reflect intersectionalities that are a distinctive feature of social life and that ground the crimes that Veronica and Phryne confront. These include inequalities of social class, race, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation—issues that are the essence of marginalization. However, both series also focus most of all on the perspectives of the central protagonists who are white, heterosexual women. They differ in that Phryne is a wealthy adult and Veronica is a lower middle-class teenager. Veronica’s friends, who are sometimes at the center of an episode, are more racially diverse than those of Phryne. Because they are PIs and not police, both protagonists present alternatives to the state as a mechanism for the righting of wrongs. However, Veronica’s experiences most strongly challenge the legitimacy of police in promoting justice.

In a television landscape rife with troubled and problematic cops, these reasonably well-adjusted PIs move closer toward the model of progressive moral fiction (see Cavender and Jurik, 2010). These series address inequities and social marginalization, and Veronica and Phryne try to do something about them. They are fictitious, but also aspirational productions that offer not only inspiration but respite from more dismal outlooks on the past and future. Veronica Mars and Miss Fisher‘s Murder Mysteries demonstrate that helping others and striving for social justice make for entertaining television. They also demonstrate that the crime genre, especially a feminist inspired woman-centric subgenre can still be a positive force in media and popular culture.

Further Reading

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  • Brunsdon, C. (2013). Television crime series, women police, and fuddy-duddy feminism. Feminist Media Studies, 13(2), 375–394.
  • Cavender, G., & Jurik, N. (2012). Justice provocateur: Jane Tennison and policing inPrime Suspect.” Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Greenwood, K. (1989). Cocaine blues. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen.
  • Klein, D. (1992). Reading the new feminist mystery: The female detective, crime and violence. Women and Criminal Justice, 4(1), 37–62.
  • Martin, S., & Jurik, N. (2007). Doing justice, doing gender: Women in legal and criminal justice occupations (2d ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Mizejewski, L. (2004). Hardboiled and high heeled: The woman detective in popular culture. New York: Routledge.
  • Taddeo, J. (2016). Sex and the lady detective: Re-imagining the golden age in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Journal of Popular Television, 4(1), 49–67.
  • Thomas, R., & Graham, J. (2015). Mr. kiss and tell. New York: Vintage.
  • Wilcox, R., & Turnbull, S. (Eds.). (2011). Investigating Veronica Mars: Essays on the teen detective series. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.


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