Growing up, I consumed a steady television diet of The A-team, Highlander, Star Trek: TNG, and Sherlock Holmes (both Granada’s Jeremy Brett version and the Basil Rathbone episodes). The original CSI got added to my regular viewing diet when it went on the air in the early 2000’s.
All those shows had something in common: male protagonists and few (if any) strong female characters. Sure there’s Amanda from Highlander, Counselor Troi and Dr. Crusher from Star Trek, and you could make a case for Irene Adler. CSI was the best of the bunch, with Sara Sidle and Catherine Willows being pretty dynamic.
Television has shifted to include more women-led dramas. Though, they don’t always stick around for the long-run: Rizzoli and Isles, The Closer, Agent Carter, Veronica Mars. But it’s still progress. And there was almost another female-led drama added to that list: a re-imagining of Nancy Drew as a thirty-something police detective in the NYPD.
Granted, Nancy Drew may see light as a NYPD detective but just not on CBS. Network executives decided to pass on the show after “the pilot tested well but skewed too female for CBS’ schedule” (Source, Mary Sue).
Too female? My TV diet as a kid was far “too male”, and it inspired my writing. My main characters are strong women. Because I wanted to prove that someone like me–a girl, now woman–could be just as awesome as Hannibal Smith or Duncan MacLeod.
Now would having watched “too female” shows have stopped me from writing strong women because there were already plenty of them out there? Probably not. But it would’ve changed something.
My first stories were fanfiction where I added original characters to existing “universes”, like The A-team, Hellsing, and Sherlock Holmes. All of the women at the center of those stories were there because of a man. They were daughters or significant others. And even a mother in one case.
That’s not to say a woman can’t be all of those things along with a powerhouse protagonist. But there’s also no reason to think that a woman can’t be a police detective or an assassin or a necromancer without getting into the job because of her relationship with a man. She can rise to that position based upon her own strength and her own abilities.
I’m hoping another network will snatch up this Nancy Drew series. Even if it’s not something I’m sure that I’d watch, I want other future authors–male and female–to see a show that’s “too female.” Because maybe then TV shows, movies, books, and other media won’t be judged as “too female” or “too male”. They’ll just be fiction.