Why “The Killing” Is One of the Best Feminist Shows on TV

photo by Carole Segal/AMC

Okay, if you can get past the fact that the entire series revolves around the brutal murders of pretty young girls, “The Killing” on AMC (whose third season premiered last night) is actually a great feminist television show:

– The main character, homicide detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), is a strong, tough, independent woman who doesn’t need a man. She doesn’t even want a man. Her passion is her job.

– There are lesbian characters (plural!) who are also strong, tough and independent. In the first two seasons, Sarah’s best friend is a lesbian; in this season, she’s getting married. And there’s a new character, a street kid named Bullet who’s as compelling as Linden’s colorful partner from the first two seasons, Stephen Holder; Bullet is in love with another runaway girl (who doesn’t know it). None of these romances is given any special treatment — they just are.

– Stephen Holder, her badass partner, is also — you guessed it  — strong, tough and independent. He’s rough around the edges, has a street accent, and is covered in tattoos. But he’s got a sweet and smart girlfriend, doesn’t participate in macho posturing about sex, and is outspoken about being a vegetarian (with zero fear of being called a “pussy” for it).

– Sarah is a sexual creature without being sexualized. She has a sex drive, she has sex — and in this season, with a much younger man, to boot! But she’s never been portrayed as an object, with cleavage or side boob or butt crack or a sexy pout or in lingerie — all the stuff that’s become de rigueur for women starring in late night cable dramas.

– Her styling is realistic. They don’t put the makeup on thick. She hasn’t Botoxed the wrinkles off of her face. She wears sensible shoes and warm clothes that make sense in the damp Seattle climate the show takes place in. And her hair is not perfectly, impossibly curled and defrizzed — it’s in a low, boring ponytail for most of the shows. Enos’s hair and makeup and wardrobe don’t have to shine because her acting does.

There’s still time for  the producers to swoop in and say “We need a sexy strip club scene” or “Sarah needs a sexy makeover.” But hopefully now that Mireille Enos and her anti-glam looks have been cast as Brad Pitt’s wife in World War Z, Hollywood will continue to create more and more roles for women that are both realistic and compelling.