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Any good depictions of Women in the military/police service?
February 24, 2013 5:49 AM   Subscribe

Just wondering if anyone knew of some depictions of women (either TV or film) in uniformed roles that pass the Bechdel test. Bechdel test being where two named women have a conversation about something other than a man. I'm racking my brain but can't think of any.
posted by Saebrial to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Last year's Canadian drama Combat Hospital set in Afghanistan certainly fits this.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:53 AM on February 24, 2013


I haven't watched this show since I was a kid, but I would think there would be scenes from 80s series Cagney & Lacey that would fit.
posted by missmerrymack at 6:00 AM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


It would be relatively easy to find an example of this in the TNG era Star Trek shows (DS9, for example, between Kira and Dax), but I'm not sure that's what you mean by uniformed role.

It's interesting to contemplate that there actually aren't that many TV shows in the US that regularly feature a bunch of main characters in real military uniforms. I thought of NCIS, for instance, but no uniforms. JAG probably has some examples of such conversations, although I haven't watched much of it.
posted by selfnoise at 6:00 AM on February 24, 2013


I would imagine that The Bill (long-running British police drama/soap) would have had quite a few. However, I never watched it, so I'm not entirely sure.

I would like to think that The Wire also had a few, but the only major female characters were Kima and Rhonda, who was not uniformed and, and who rarely crossed paths. There was Beadie, but she was a very distant third in terms of visibility.

Sarah Lund in The Killing is almost entirely not uniformed, so that doesn't count.

Would you consider hospital uniforms to count? If so, that widens the field somewhat.
posted by Magnakai at 6:01 AM on February 24, 2013


I think China Beach does. I'm pretty sure Wish Me Luck does as well.

IDK if documentaries count, but Vietnam Nurses with Dana Delaney would as well -- there's a whole section on getting the Vietnam Nurses memorial and nurses and PTSD.

And, um, this is dorky, but Eliza Mazda in Gargoyles is a cop. She's mostly plain clothes now, but I think she has flashbacks to when she wasn't.

Dexter has Deb.
posted by spunweb at 6:04 AM on February 24, 2013


Oh, duh. Joan in Army Wives. She talks a lot about her husband, but there are a few convos where she talks about her PTSD. And I think the redhaired one has flashbacks to being a cop?
posted by spunweb at 6:05 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


on Australian TV, there'd be examples over the 6 year run of Water Rats.
posted by russm at 6:06 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As part of any greater interest in gender roles in the media you might be interested in the Geena Davis Institute.

seejane.org

On iPad, or I'd link.
posted by zizzle at 6:09 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's Alison's full list. At a quick glance the new Dredd film seems to pass the three tests.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:21 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dexter has Deb.
And Deb talks to LaGuerta about cases?

I think the female fighter pilots on Battlestar Galactica must count at some point - conversations between Boomer, Athena, Starbuck, Kat, and/or deck officer Dualla.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:43 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


And Deb talks to LaGuerta about cases?

Often. Well, until....

Rizzoli & Isles

Crossing Jordan

Bones
posted by cjorgensen at 6:48 AM on February 24, 2013


Lost. Anna Lucia and her mother talk about work and their relationship.

Unfortunately this is an ensemble cast rather than the main focus of the show.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 6:51 AM on February 24, 2013


Absolutely Battlestar Galactica.

Castle does this pretty often -- Kate with Lainie, Kate with the Captain (although they don't wear uniforms, Kate and the Captain are cops and Lainie is a scientist). Although Kate and Lainie do often talk about boys & romance as well.
posted by mochapickle at 6:58 AM on February 24, 2013


Law & Order SVU now has two female detectives, Bensen and Rollins. They don't usually wear uniforms, but they are NYPD officers who fairly often investigate and discuss cases together. (Technically, a lot of their conversations are about men, since most of their suspects are male, but I think that talking about how to catch a "perp" should fall into a different category than what the Bechdel test is lamenting, which is the ubiquity of women talking to one another about their heterosexual relationships.)
posted by decathecting at 7:09 AM on February 24, 2013


Yeah, Law and Order SVU does currently pass this test (she hasn't been on much, but the forensic pathologist is a kick ass woman too--of color--who talks science like a boss with an occasional all-female audience); Bones (FBI) seems like it would too for the same dynamics and cast makeup (two strong female leads who interact often).

However, these are workplace dramas, and all these women are talking to each other about, well, work. Not baseball, or Hegel, or art, indie rock, or (non workplace related) politics, etc.
posted by availablelight at 7:15 AM on February 24, 2013


if you remove "talking about work" from a workplace drama, there's not a whole lot of dialogue left...
posted by russm at 7:18 AM on February 24, 2013


if you remove "talking about work" from a workplace drama, there's not a whole lot of dialogue left...

Not so. The actual doctoring science talk is a relatively small part of the dialogue and appeal of Grey's Anatomy, Bones, Private Practice, Chicago Hope, et al; even on a more purely "procedural" like Law and Order SVU there are stops at the bar, out to dinner, out for coffee, asides on a stake out, etc. to establish personal character arcs, relationship dynamics, secondary characters outside the workplace, etc.
posted by availablelight at 7:21 AM on February 24, 2013


I was also going to say Dexter.
posted by mazienh at 7:28 AM on February 24, 2013


Fargo is a good movie about a competent and inspiring female police officer investigating a murder. It's debatable whether or not it passes the Bechdel test. She talks to other women about the case, but that might not count since the perpetrators are men.
posted by steinwald at 7:41 AM on February 24, 2013


Oh, I think the nurses in MASH could meet this.

Even though only Margaret is a large role, she and the other nurses mostly talk about things other than men.

In fact, the female characters in MASH tend to talk about men with other men more than they do with other women.
posted by zizzle at 7:48 AM on February 24, 2013


West Wing, of course. The female African-American military chief never talks about her personal life on that show, and is always professional. It's nice.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2013


China Beach and Cagney and Lacey were my guesses also. There is definitely one conversation in Game of Thrones that works out this way between Catelyn Stark and her protector Brienne of Tarth but the whole rest of the show is not like this at all.
posted by jessamyn at 8:08 AM on February 24, 2013


Wish Me Luck, which I haven't watched much of, is an 80's BBC drama about lady spies during WWII.
posted by chaiminda at 8:11 AM on February 24, 2013


Season 4 of The L Word, in which Rose Rollins plays Tasha, who has to deal with DADT when she starts dating Alice.

I mean, it passes the Bechdel Test for sure, but most of the conversations involving Tasha will still be about relationships, because that's the nature of The L Word. So it depends why you're looking for Bechdel-passing if this example is interesting to you or not.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:20 AM on February 24, 2013


GI Jane. With the caveat that the main Bechdel passing conversations that I remember are between Demi Moore's character (who is in uniform for at least some of them I think), and Anne Bancroft's, who is a senator and thus not in uniform.

There are other women who wear uniforms, and they do talk to Demi Moore, but _I_ don't remember their names.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:24 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe the recent film End of Watch fits the bill. Also, nthing Dexter not just for Deb, but for Cira Manzon (uniformed cop). She's not in uniform, but Brenda Johnson in The Closer works. Private Benjamin. I don't know how far you want to get into sci-fi, but Starship Troopers passes.
posted by Ms. Toad at 8:38 AM on February 24, 2013


I'm sure that JAG has scenes like this.
posted by Jahaza at 8:46 AM on February 24, 2013


Private Benjamin.
posted by iviken at 9:04 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Flashpoint - Canadian procedural about a 'strategic response unit' (aka SWAT team) that ran for 5 seasons. Amy Jo Johnson was one of the leads, and though she was usually the only woman on the unit when in the field, there were a couple of recurring female characters that rotated in and out of the team, plus the dispatcher, and the women involved in the plot of the week, so I think most episodes would pass the Bechdel test.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:20 AM on February 24, 2013


Is this just for your own enjoyment, or do you need screencaps/visuals for a project?

I love NCIS (though the agents work in plain clothes, except the forensic specialist who's often in a lab coat). Special Agent Ziva David is my favorite kick-ass woman character who does not wear a catsuit to do her job. Women characters throughout the series include the forensic specialist, the agency director, and another special agent on the team before Ziva. And because it's all military-related, you get plenty of side characters who are American women in uniform.

I also love NCIS because its murder victims are a mix of professional men and women, unlike other crime shows where victims are more likely to be just women (especially sexy half-dressed ones).

posted by cadge at 10:48 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Criminal Minds has three extremely competent women in its main cast who not only work together (as FBI agents) but also hang out together and get into situations like this (note: this particular scene technically does not pass the Bechdel test as there is a man in most of it, but I couldn't resist.) Frequently the local police liason officer of the week is also a woman.
posted by btfreek at 11:03 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


King. From the IMDB synopsis:
As a Homicide Detective, Jessica King (Amy Price-Francis) sees things that everyone else misses: in crime scenes, in evidence, in the motivations and drives of the suspects. A fearless and imaginative lateral thinker, her unique eye for detail turns cases around. And she has a rare quality: Jess doesnt need to be liked. That quality gets her into trouble.
posted by axiom at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2013


There's a new buddy cop movie coming out where the catch is that the buddy cops are women. It stars Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy and is called The Heat. I'm pretty excited to see it, even though buddy cop movies aren't usually my thing. The trailer was pretty hilarious.

From the trailer, my guess is that this movie will easily pass the Bechdel Test.
posted by Sara C. at 11:09 AM on February 24, 2013


Also, I'm pretty impressed that SVU now has an all-female detective team. The women in L&O series are usually relegated to exposition duty or rape/murder fodder.
posted by Sara C. at 11:10 AM on February 24, 2013


I guess we (or I) need some parameters. Does talking about a man mean their romantic interest in the man (because they're obviously straight) or any man? Would talking about a male murder victim or something count? I'm assuming interviewing a woman as a suspect or witness because of their (romantic?) connection to a male victim or suspect obviously doesn't count.

Chicago Fire has two female paramedics. They do seem to spend an awful lot of time talking about their love lives, though. They've probably had five minutes of paramedic-ing at some point, but that's not really substantive conversation. (I'm trying to remember if that show that was basically the same, but in San Francisco, that lasted only a season had two major female characters. There was a female helicopter pilot, but I don't remember anyone else.)

Prime Suspect might, though sans uniform.

There's a slim chance Inspector Morse and Inspect Lewis might pass, though again sans uniform. By the time Lewis starts, both the DCI and the pathologist are women (they must both be there for the end of Morse, but I don't remember), but I'm not sure they ever talk to each other. (Actually, there's an episode of Lewis where the pathologist's university friends are being murdered, which is where I'd look.)

Spooks/MI-5 probably passes, as long as they're allowed to be talking about a man for work purposes. Still no uniforms.

Oh, duh. Joan in Army Wives. She talks a lot about her husband, but there are a few convos where she talks about her PTSD. And I think the redhaired one has flashbacks to being a cop?

How many times does Joan talk to other female soldiers, though? I assume it must happen at least occasionally, but because of how the show's structured, it seems like most of the scenes where she talks to other women, she's talking to them because they're Roland's friends and not really independently of Roland's existence. (I haven't seen the PTSD plotline's conclusion, I don't think, so I may well have missed the bulk of Joan's substantive scenes.)
posted by hoyland at 11:41 AM on February 24, 2013


I'm trying to remember if that show that was basically the same, but in San Francisco, that lasted only a season had two major female characters. There was a female helicopter pilot, but I don't remember anyone else.

Trauma? That show passes the Bechdel test I bet, but it wasn't anything more than a pretty run-of-the-mill medical drama.
posted by axiom at 11:53 AM on February 24, 2013


I feel like there's a Very Special Episode about women in the service in Army Wives, but I might be wrong... anyways, there's supposed to be an Army Husbands show coming out...
posted by spunweb at 12:53 PM on February 24, 2013


Maybe Reno 911 would count?
posted by spunweb at 12:59 PM on February 24, 2013


Feds!
posted by daisystomper at 1:56 PM on February 24, 2013


Prime Suspect, with Helen Mirren. Especially in the later episodes, there are a few other women cops in addition to the lead.

Not exactly military or poilice, but the Swedish series Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter does deal with criminal investigation, and it absolutely aces Bechdel.

The British Series Foyle's War features Samantha Sterwart as a military driver assigned to the police (two-fer!). Since it often shows women working jobs which had been held by men before WW2, it occasionally passes Bechdel.
posted by Corvid at 2:10 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Southland has had female detective pairings from time to time that would have passed the test.
posted by mmascolino at 3:35 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's some more from the list:

A League Of Their Own
Black Narcissus
D.E.B.S.
Event Horizon
Sister Act 1 + 2
St Trinians films
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:29 PM on February 24, 2013


I came in to say Southland, particularly the pairing of detectives Lydia and Josie
posted by kelseyq at 5:02 PM on February 24, 2013


It's been mentioned a few times, but let me elaborate a bit on JAG. One of the main characters, Sarah 'Mac' Mackenzie, is female and several significant secondary characters are as well. Mac has a long-running friendship with Harriet, respects Congresswoman Bobbi Latham, and has a clashing work relationship with Singer. There's other female characters as well but they often pop in the context of dating and men. To be clear, though, JAG thoroughly fits your bill as far as Bechdel Test and women in the military.
posted by librarylis at 8:22 PM on February 24, 2013


Does talking about a man mean their romantic interest in the man (because they're obviously straight) or any man?

Yes, it's usually taken to mean talking about a male love interest. For example think of any scene between Meg Ryan and her Likeable Brunette Bestie in a romantic comedy. It's two women talking to each other, but generally they are talking about a guy, or a love affair with a guy, or perhaps love/relationships in general.

Two women in a scene together talking about, say, who the serial killer is? That's not what the Bechdel test is worried about.
posted by Sara C. at 8:37 PM on February 24, 2013


Stargate SG-1 had plenty of Bechdel-test passing, uniform wearing female Air Force officers.
posted by janell at 9:05 PM on February 24, 2013


Nthing the criminally underwatched Southland's third season, though the two women are detectives and are not technically wearing uniforms. (I'm guessing that still counts.)

Saving Grace, too, though again, a detective who does not wear a uniform. Her BFF is the medical examiner, and they a lot about things that don't involve cases or men. (This show gets a bad rap because it's, er, about angels? I am usually not into that kind of thing, but the show is actually great. Holly Hunter!)
posted by Charity Garfein at 12:13 AM on February 25, 2013


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