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Justice Provocateur

Justice Provocateur: Jane Tennison and Policing in Prime Suspect

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Justice Provocateur
    Book Description:

    Justice Provocateur focuses on Prime Suspect, a popular British television film series starring Oscar and Emmy award-winning actress Helen Mirren as fictional London policewoman Jane Tennison. Gray Cavender and Nancy C. Jurik examine the media constructions of justice, gender, and police work in the show, exploring its progressive treatment of contemporary social problems in which women are central protagonists. They argue that the show acts as a vehicle for progressive moral fiction--fiction that gives voice to victim experiences, locates those experiences within a larger social context, transcends traditional legal definitions of justice for victims, and offers insights into ways that individuals might challenge oppressive social and organizational arrangements. _x000B__x000B_Although Prime Suspect is often seen as a uniquely progressive, feminist-inspired example within the typically more conservative, male-dominated crime genre, Cavender and Jurik also address the complexity of the films' gender politics. Consistent with some significant criticisms of the films, they identify key moments in the series when Tennison's character appears to move from a successful woman who has it all to a post-feminist stereotype of a lonely, aging career woman with no strong family or friendship ties. Shrewdly interpreting the show as an illustration of the tensions and contradictions of women's experiences and their various relations to power, Justice Provocateur provides a framework for interrogating the meanings and implications of justice, gender, and social transformation both on and off the screen._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09431-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Prime Suspect (Granada Television) is one of the most popular British television exports to the United States and around the globe. The series chronicles the career and personal life of Jane Tennison, initially a detective chief inspector (DCI) and later a detective superintendent (DS) for the London Metropolitan Police. Dame Helen Mirren plays Tennison, a woman officer who solves tough cases that expose complex social injustices, all the while fighting her way up the ranks of the male-dominated organization of British policing. In one Prime Suspect episode, her dad characterizes Tennison’s passionate pursuit of justice:

    You know, up until the...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Analytic Framework
    (pp. 23-36)

    In this chapter, we develop our framework for analyzing Prime Suspect. It is our intention that this framework serve as a benchmark for examining gender and justice issues in cultural productions, including film and television. In contrast to some cultural studies approaches that claim to avoid value assessments of fictional works, we adopt an approach that not only examines but advocates for works that promote hopes for and actions toward social justice.

    The first component of our framework rests on the idea that a feminist crime genre has emerged in the past few decades. As noted in the Introduction, the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Prime Suspect and Women in Policing
    (pp. 37-54)

    To a large extent, the early absence of women police protagonists from novels and television programs was an accurate reflection of social reality. As we discussed in the Introduction, women were largely excluded from the majority of police patrol and crime investigation jobs until the 1970s. Despite their integration into a wider range of police duties, women continued to struggle to remain and advance in their positions and often were relegated to police work that was behind the scenes of street patrol and investigation. Such jobs were hardly the “stuff” of crime fiction. We begin this chapter with a discussion...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Investigating and Challenging
    (pp. 55-71)

    In this chapter we consider both the strategies of detection that enable Jane Tennison to solve cases and the television production techniques employed in the series that establish Tennison as a credible and successful female protagonist in a previously male-dominated subgenre. Thus, we examine methods whereby the male dominance of the police procedural is decentered in Prime Suspect.

    To attract an audience, authors and creators of new crime genre productions typically distinguish their chief protagonist with some unique personality characteristics or detecting method. The Prime Suspect series combines realism with the highly competent, driving force of a woman succeeding in...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Doing Justice
    (pp. 72-87)

    The crime genre offers a template for examining collective anxieties and issues of justice (Brunsdon 2000). Television crime productions generally, and police procedurals in particular, typically adopt quite narrow definitions of law, order, and justice. The definitions of justice have become so narrow in many recent productions that the law-and-order concept actually implies a disregard of law whenever it is necessary for police to catch criminals. Criminals in such productions are portrayed in one-dimensional and stereotypical fashions as embodiments of evil, even if it is below the surface of otherwise normal appearances. Individual responsibility for wrongdoing is stressed without serious...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Private Troubles and Public Issues
    (pp. 88-108)

    The crime genre has long been characterized by individualism; that is, the criminal bears individual responsibility for his or her crime, and the investigator, a strong and heroic individual, apprehends the culprit. The depiction of the criminal as an evil villain and the detective/cop as the strong hero who saves the day is at the heart of the crime genre’s individualistic narrative, a narrative that privileges a binary of good and evil. Restoring order or status quo arrangements has also been a common theme in the genre. Indeed, as the name of one of television’s most popular crime genre programs...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Prime Suspect and Progressive Moral Fiction
    (pp. 109-142)

    As we noted in the Introduction, critics and scholars disagree about Prime Suspect’s success in transforming the sexist, racist, and conservative nature of most crime genre productions. In this, our concluding chapter of the book, we utilize our ideal type model of progressive moral fiction to conduct our own assessment of the transformation-containment debate surrounding Prime Suspect and to consider its impact on crime genre conventions and television programming. We conclude that despite its weaknesses, Prime Suspect has had a transformative effect on the television police crime drama. Certainly, the series enhanced the standards of the procedural’s televisual sense of...

  11. APPENDIX: Prime Suspect Episode Overview
    (pp. 143-150)
  12. References
    (pp. 151-160)
  13. Index
    (pp. 161-166)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-168)