Good Feminism: The Closer

Brenda and Sharon Raydor
The most fascinating aspect of feminism on The Closer is that Brenda, the lead, doesn't perceive herself in those terms but the writers do (and are aware of the dichotomy).

Brenda sees everyone from murderers to herself in terms of individuality. In Season 6, she informs Captain Raydor that the feminist movements has given her the right to make her own choices--she doesn't have to pursue the highest position to prove something to other women; she can follow her own inclinations.

Although she bows to Captain Raydor's arguments to run for Chief of Police, she retains her individual remove, ultimately scuppering her chances at the job by a justified (but politically problematic) shooting. "You should have let me take the shot," a frustrated Flynn tells her. Brenda shrugs. She either forgot about the political ramifications (focusing only on the case) or deliberately acted against them. Either way, she did what she wanted. 

Ultimately, politics don't interest Brenda. To Captain Taylor in Season 1, she states:
Captain Taylor, I suppose I should apologize to you for not having been born in Los Angeles, but, having seen your work up close now for several months, I can honestly say that, try as I might, I can't think of *any* fair and reasonable system on Earth where I wouldn't outrank you. There, I hope that clears everything up. Well, excuse me, I mean, uh, I have to go. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Brenda doesn't care that Taylor is black or that she is a woman. She would outrank him on the merits, pure and simple.

On the other hand, the writers underscore Brenda's ability to solve cases and get confessions as a feminine trait. Like the women in Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers," Brenda notices "trifles" (to borrow the original title from Glaspell) because she is a woman. Her femininity and experience of womanhood keep her  open to clues and information that men would dismiss or simply not notice.

She would make Miss Marple proud!

Brenda et al.
In fact, The Closer is a suitable heir to the Golden Age mysteries of Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. The good feminism (to which Sayers would have laid claim quicker than Christie) of both writers is the sheer, unrepentant individuality of the female protagonist. Both Sayers and Christie, however different in personality, supported the right of women to live life on their terms as women, not in bondage to a system, whether that system is patriarchy OR political feminism.

In a similar fashion, Brenda might use her feminine wiles to flirt with Pope and bamboozle male authority figures, but she does it because she can, not because Women (capital letter) are supposed to. Or not.

1 comment:

a calvinist preacher said...

Feminism - and most other -ism's - fail in that they insist the individual subjugate himself (sorry, but I hate the "him- or herself" types of constructions and I refuse to refer to human beings by the 3rd person pronoun) to the dictates of class, however that class be defined - economically, racially, by gender, etc.

Al Sharpton is as vigorous in denying the individual humanity of Black people as any KKK wizard of 50 years ago, and Gloria Steinem is just as thorough in denying the individuality of women as any misogynist patriarch ever could be. But stereotypes are powerful things and it is very difficult to resist their power without resorting to a different stereotypes to juxtapose against them.

This is why I've always said, "Nouns first, adjectives second." Though English tends to put the adjectives in front of the noun, we must focus on the noun as the main thing and not be distracted by the adjectives. The most important noun regarding human beings is the proper noun - the name that identifies them as individuals before God.