Do you have kids, Detective Benson? asks the pleading face of a father, guilty of murdering his son's rapist. Detective Olivia Benson's eyes glaze over with a familiar look of longing, and the audience sees her softening to the man, letting out a breath while muttering No. A pang of guilt peeks through her voice, as if this answer somehow brings her down to a certain level, reminding her that as a working woman without a family, she could not possibly understand his actions; as if to imply that familial love was not something she was capable of, as she neglected her inherent responsibilities towards becoming a matriarch, and chose to become a cop. In Law and Order: Special Victims Unit Detective Olivia Benson and Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabbot are constantly reminded of their decisions to become dedicated career women, in the implied lieu of a family or motherhood. Beginning in the eighties, women in the workplace became a growing commonality on television programs, starting with the infamous struggles of Cagney and Lacey.
[...] Starting with Cagney and Lacey the audience was presented with an option when it came to the representations of women in television. While trying to retain femininity, female characters became stronger, more independent and more capable. But along with this new vision came a strict double bind. When it comes to the working woman and family, the representations have yet to construct the successful balance between family and career. Television show attempt to offer the choice as one of complete liberty, not subject to critique and hegemony, but at the same time, even characters like Cagney and Lacey suffer the consequences. [...]
[...] Cagney, the single woman, played by Sharon Gless looking and dressing as though she'd just dropped in from the Miss Universe contest next door, is the hard-nosed upholder of and order” He goes on to talk about her Jewish boyfriend from ACLU and how this to her rebellious nature (Green 1). Susan J. Douglas also makes a comment regarding the characters, pointing out did the unmarried, childless one really have to be an alcoholic, especially when the mother of three had a lot more reason to drink?” (Douglas 274). [...]
[...] Since there exists a level of “resistance to women being in male oriented jobs most people favor equal pay for equal work, but not women as truck drivers or ditch diggers or that sort of male (D'Acci Cagney and Lacey, as a pair of female cops, were making a direct statement. Up until this point, the career paths of detectives, cops and lawyers had almost always been exclusive to males. These jobs require long hours, and there is no room for break downs, and no time for irrationality or personal attachments. [...]
[...] Through the evolution of these representations, from Cagney and Lacey to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, the audience is still presented with carefully constructed, negotiated representations, coupled with exploitative feminist ideals and laced with sexuality. To some feminists, like Bonnie Dow, the 1980's as a whole represent a depressing time for feminism Cagney and Lacey, faced constant pressure to mute their feminist implications.' (Dow The public adheres to these representations and therefore verifies them, keeping us on a circular path, always leading back to the core issues of women in the workplace. [...]
[...] This has not changed, to date, as seen with the example of Law and Order and the obvious friction between the two lead females. Instead of bonding together in their independence and defiance of social restraints to create something even stronger, they alienate each other, each bonding more closely to a male counterpart, implying a female reliance on a male to become and remain successful in a ‘man's world'. Media representations attempt to represent empowerment, but as the shows popularize, the characters begin to lose much of their defiance or unruliness (Rowe 202), and find them selves falling into the same media stereotypes. [...]
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