Monday, November 7, 2016

Presidents and Prime Suspects

Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison
Jane Tennison got me thinking about Hillary Clinton. In the days before the U.S. presidential election, I've been watching some of the old Helen Mirren Prime Suspects, and it's striking how similar the sexism she faced in Britain in the 1990s -- as she rose through the ranks as a detective chief inspector and detective superintendent -- is to what Clinton's experiencing as she fights to become the first female president.

Tennison had to supervise and be supervised by men who subtly and overtly weren't comfortable working with a smart, competent, pushy, ambitious high-ranking woman.

I sympathize with her and admire her tenacity, yet, as with Clinton, am exasperated by some of the things she does. In Clinton's case that means everything from her "basket of deplorables" line to those email problems you may have heard something about. In Tennison's it can be her refusal to explore a line of inquiry in a homicide because she doesn't want to consider that she might have put someone away for a crime he didn't commit and her subsequent behavior when she's taken off the case (even if she ends up saving a life in the process).
Hillary Clinton as herself

Like Tennison, Clinton isn't just a victim of sexism. Yes, that plays a role, but she also a flawed individual who makes mistakes that hurt her. Would she make the same choices, and would her mistakes have quite same force if she were one of the boys? Would things be different if both women had sunnier dispositions and were more "feminine"? In Jane's fictional world, those questions make for great drama. In Hillary's real world, they scare the crap out of me because they could put Donald Trump in the White House (though that seems increasingly unlikely).

In the Prime Suspect where it looks like she might have put the wrong man behind bars, Jane becomes the subject of an internal affairs investigation courtesy of her nemesis Thorndike (Stephen Boxer), who even visits the man she's seeing, a psychologist, to try to get dirt on her. After Jane's reputation has been restored, she dances with Thorndike at an official function and lets him know she's on to him. It ends with a drink being tossed in someone's face in response to a sexist comment.

When Hillary wins the election on Tuesday -- and I'm thinking of it more as a when than an if -- how I would love to see her do some drink tossing!

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