ITV’s latest detective series arrived in a blaze of publicity, trumpeting its female-friendly credentials. It had two talented lead actresses, an all-female writing team and the promise that, having seen women relegated to “just the wife/girlfriend” in countless other dramas, Scott & Bailey’s characters would be different.
But are they? I’ve yet to see any convincing evidence. In fact, I’d say this series does more of a disservice to women on TV than any misogynist murderer in Waking the Dead.
Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) is a harassed wife and mother. Yawn.
Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) is too much of a dope to have realised that her boyfriend of two years was married – or, indeed, that he was an enormous loser. And when she did find out, did she react in a mature, adult fashion and just get on with her life?
No. She plotted revenge like an obsessed harpy. But when she was feeling a bit down, who did she turn to? Yes, that’s right. The enormous loser. Even after he’d evicted her from his flat the day after she miscarried their child. (He later tried to have her killed.)
These two are hardly flying the flag for strong women, are they?
You can call me a bitch if you like. Scott and Bailey would. It’s their favourite word. I’m not sure who they’re trying to impress, bandying the word around every five minutes.
What are they trying to say? “Look! We can be as tough as men! We can slag women off, too!” Wow. Are you feeling as empowered as I am right now?
In Scott and Bailey’s world, women who commit crimes are the lowest of the low. In four out of six stories, women have been portrayed as the worst offenders – even if they haven’t physically committed the worst crime.
One week, a porn star was arrested on suspicion of murdering her husband. As the cops sat watching the unlikely snuff video she’d helpfully taken of her hubby’s demise, what do you think they were most shocked by?
The sight of two thugs hacking an innocent man – their friend, no less – to death with a machete?
No. They were more appalled that the man’s wife had incited his killers to commit the crime.
In another episode, a woman tried to shield her rapist-turned-killer son from the consequences of his crimes. The brother of his latest victim then set light to the perpetrator’s home, accidentally killing the rapist’s sister.
Scott and Bailey empathised with this teenager – no less a killer than the young man who’d attacked his late sister – but took great pleasure in bluntly breaking the news to the bereaved mother as she languished in a police cell. The message appeared to be: “You protected your son – so you deserve to be punished by losing your daughter.”
Women consistently have to be seen to “pay the price”. If this show had been written by men, I honestly think there’d have been an outcry by now. I dread to think what we might get should ITV commission a second series.
A rape victim breaking down under cross-examination and admitting she was, in fact, “asking for it”? An episode where a woman accused of a hit-and-run declares that maybe the kingdom of Saudi Arabia got it right about women drivers?
That “cop show for women” spin was one gigantic red herring – and it stinks.