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Guest blog: All hail the new TV heroine. Writer Jenna Good thinks she’s fierce and has some serious issues

Posted June 28, 2013 - Blog Posts

If an alien popped over to planet earth to make a new TV drama and wanted to know what made a strong TV heroine these days, how would I advise the (presumably) green being?

At the top of my list of character traits would have to be – that they need issues. Not just your regular ‘I don’t trust men’ issues, but real crippling ones.

Somewhere along the line scriptwriters have decided that our current heroines need to be a hell of a lot more complicated.

The lack of a strong female character has long been a sticking point for actors but with the emergence of the likes of C4’s Homeland, BBC 2’s The Fall, ITV’s The Americans and even ITV’s Broadchurch, something has clearly changed.

The Fall

Female characters are now much more complex, with a plethora of personal quirks, from mental health issues to some very odd mannerisms backing up their tough personas.
And judging by the ratings, we can’t get enough of them.

Give me Carrie Mathison or DSI Stella Gibson to watch over a one-dimensional ‘reality’ TV TOWIE character any day.

Although having said that, I’ve got a lot of time for Made in Chelsea star Lucy Watson. I’ll explain myself later.

DSI Stella Gibson, played by The X Files star Gillian Anderson, in The Fall really highlighted more than ever how this new breed of troubled female heroines are here to stay following Clare Danes’ harrowing depiction of Carrie.

Ratings skyscraper Broadchurch meanwhile, put Olivia Coleman firmly on our TV map with her utterly convincing character portrayal of tragic DS Ellie Miller.

While Carrie and Stella, turned our blood blue with their issues – it’s fair to say that Ellie didn’t really seem to have that many during the first few episodes.

However she suffered from a flaw far worse – blinkered trust.

It becomes clear by the finale that she infact is possibly even more married to her work than Carrie and Stella put together when the murderer she has been hunting so tirelessly for all those months turns out to be her devoted husband. How did she miss that?

I’m no detective but I had figured this out around mid way through the drama. Oh well, if she didn’t have issues before, she certainly will now.


But one of my favourites of the new TV heroine set is The American’s Elizabeth Jennings, played by Keri Russell.

To me, she’s got all the criteria going on – it goes without saying she’s got issues, but along with that she’s glossy, feisty and has the brutal will of Lady Macbeth.

What’s more, this series also clearly illustrates how on the flip side, men in thrillers are becoming softer, a bit stupider, more humane and less ambitious. Meanwhile Elizabeth – like Carrie and Stella – is shockingly single-minded.

What could be less maternal than getting married and having TWO children to ensure the cover up of her KGB identify and maintain the facade of being an everyday American family?
No one knows how long this swap of television gender stereotypes will last, but for the meantime, let’s enjoy the ride.

Elizabeth is ruthless, sexy and with a heart of stone – which a few episodes in annoyingly starts to shows signs of thawing.

For some reason she becomes compelled to share some loving pain with her 13-year-old daughter Paige and wakes her up in the middle of the night.


What follows is mother-daughter bonding the only way she knows how. Touchingly, the previously goal-orientated spy who willingly trades sex for information, gently wakes her daughter up to pierce her ears.
Paige is pleased, brave and barely makes a sound even as blood drips coldly onto her bed sheets – she’s clearly her mother’s daughter.

Another female character I’ve warmed to recently – don’t judge me and I know she’s not part of the thriller set – but I feel compelled to mention MIC’s Lucy Watson.

Lucy Watson - MIC

She’s no Lady Macbeth, unlike the ruthless, driven ladies mentioned above but I have found her no nonsense approach to dating thoroughly refreshing.

Ok so she’s not dealing with murderers but that Spencer Matthews is a douchebag of unparalleled levels and it’s been a joy to watch her put him firmly in his place. Until that is, he cheated on her. Ah! Look out Spencer, I can see some of Elizabeth in Lucy and now you’ve given her some issues anything’s possible.

Jenna Good is a freelance writer specialising in TV and lifestyle pieces for national newspaper and magazines. She’s often lucky enough to watch TV for a living and when she’s not doing that, would hope to be found traveling somewhere warm. She can be found tweeting at @JennaGood

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