Sunday, October 22, 2006

Last of the tough girls

Actresses? Look anywhere and there seems no shortage of talented female performers all ready to outshine the latest batch of dull vacuum-moulded male actors in films and TV dramas.

Female characters? Tell me the last time you saw a really fascinatingly well drawn original female character? I don't mean an actress giving a great performance, I mean a really great female character. One you could relate to.

Personally I've got thing for 'women of courage' characters. Sadly there aren't many of them of to be found. I can think of three - one you will know, one you probably won't (so I won't write about her) and another that - until tonight has managed to remain alive...Back in 1986, one of the things that made Aliens such an achievement is how action and mayhem in a fantastical world are used to paint out a richly detailed and totally believable female character - the legendarily tough but tender Ripley.

In Aliens, Ripley is a woman with the guts to turn to face her tormentor, the intelligence to give herself (and a bunch of marines) a fighting chance against an overwhelming enemy, and a woman who uses her maternal instincts to kill another mother who is also fighting to protect her young.

Ripley like Joan before her soon makes the ultimate sacrifice.

Tonight, in the usually miss-able world of the television drama, there will come the demise of a more down to earth fighting female - DSI Jane Tennison - the central character of the Prime Suspect series. I for one shall be pretty darn sad because its the Tennison character that's made Prime Suspect the only drama I've actually remembered to follow.
The character, played by Helen Mirren in all seven episodes of series is to be killed off. Having battled sexism, blonde-ism (?) and a barrage of grim crime the character now faces ageism, loneliness and alcoholism - the sad product of a life surrendered to the 'job'.

Prime Suspect isn't anything movie-ish, - its great television - which means it sneaks into our mind in the form of entertainment and then forces us to reconsider how we see the world around us.

But all in all, what makes the series so special is that its about a female - who fights for the power to do what she loves in a male-dominated business whilst making mistakes - lots of big dangerous and embarrassing mistakes - but she manages to preserve her career. It's something that, since the series started in 1991, has given a lot of courage to a lot of people.

Prime Suspect has always been subtle, economical and unflinching in its examination of a wonderfully believable character. And now its over. Case closed. No Christmas special. Just the DVD box set (please!).

Here's a short clip. Watch how many emotions Helen Mirren reveals about her character in just a few short seconds.

"When I'm at work..." she says.


Anonymous Stephen said...

Hello! My name is Stephen, and I am an American college student who is hoping to move to Warsaw in the fall after I graduate from school. If you would be willing, I would love to ask you some questions about life in Poland and such. I'm just trying to get the logistics figured out and would love to talk to someone who has had the experience. My email address is: Ta!

11/4/08 12:35 am  
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