|Sameen Shaw and Root|
To begin on a note of complete disclosure, I had zero interest in the show Person of Interest when it first premiered. Zero. Two men: one has the brains, one the brawn, working together. Sound familiar? On the one hand, it seemed to involve slightly more creativity than most other shows. It didn’t revolve around the usual trifecta of cops/lawyers/doctors (shows so formulaic they have been driven into the ground, resurrected, and then ground down even further until there was absolutely nothing left to explore). It also wasn’t a drama centered around a quirky family. These were positive elements in the show’s favor – not enough to rope me in, but vaguely hypothetically interesting, like String Theory. One of a long list of concepts that you can’t even be bothered to google.
Now, shoot to this week: I’m channel surfing, and I’ve been feeling sexist. It’s an unsettling feeling: that sense that you don’t gravitate naturally towards your own gender. I don’t like shows for women. I don’t like quirky female characters that suffer romantic setbacks and have their relationships, their proximity to a man, as their defining characteristic. I’ve never discussed interesting female characters before, and this is a trend that needs to be broken.
There are some good female lead characters out there: any of the clones on Orphan Black, Carrie from Homeland (although a little too emotionally overwrought). I want a female that leads with her head instead of following her heart. Towards a man. Towards a never ending series of sunsets and heartache (See The Bachelorette).
So, there I was, channel surfing on prime time because I don’t have cable, for something that wasn’t so offensive that I could make dinner without having to run over to change the channel. And there it was: women double fisting guns, women kicking ass. Two of them. One slightly sociopathic (Shaw) and one devoted to a computerized Messiah (Root). Both of them appear to be ambidextrous when it came to handling semiautomatics – this show is mesmerizingly violent – and this is key – they’re fun to watch. They breathe life into the show, and it’s because they’re having fun. They’re breaking one of the subtle female onscreen stereotypes, that women are always supposed to be serious. Hyper focused. On their work, on the crisis, on their careers, and basically on not having any fun. Do you ever notice that 99% of the time, female characters have rods up their bums? They’re sensible, sensitive, ready to get the job done, always empathetic. In a way, that makes them predictable, and in the long run, that makes them uninteresting.
I wish legions of people weren’t getting shot all over the streets of New York every week on this show. That’s a minor complaint. Ironically, I’m becoming more and more sensitive to violent imagery the more I’m exposed to it. But I’m glad Shaw and Root exist.