TV’s “wishful thinking” on gender equality lulls viewers into false sense of security says Victoria writer Daisy Goodwin

Dramas such as Bodyguard and Doctor Who portraying a world "more equal" than it is could in fact do more harm than good argues the screenwriter

Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who (BBC, HF)

Victoria screenwriter Daisy Goodwin has warned that on-screen female empowerment could undermine the fight for equality in the real world by encouraging “a false sense of equality”.


Writing in Radio Times, Goodwin said that while series such as Bodyguard, Killing Eve and Doctor Who should be celebrated for casting women in leading and dynamic roles, the pictures they create are potentially misleading.

Citing the array of strong roles for women in the BBC’s hit drama Bodyguard, Goodwin said, “It’s a woman’s world in Bodyguard, and to some extent that bears out the facts: a woman is currently in charge of the Metropolitan Police (Cressida Dick) and until recently Amber Rudd was Home Secretary.

“But splendid as the notion is that women are now seamlessly integrated into every aspect of authority, it is at best wishful thinking – and at worst undermines the fight for equality,” she wrote.

Keeley Hawes BBC Bodyguard
Keeley Hawes as Home Secretary Julia Montague in hit BBC drama Bodyguard (BBC)

Goodwin added that failing to reflect “the world as it is” in TV drama means that stories of female struggles are in danger of being lost.

“It also makes it much less likely that anyone would make a drama about a woman battling discrimination in a specialist police unit. Could anyone make a drama like Prime Suspect today?” she said.

“I suspect that drama commissioners think that stories about women struggling against the institutional odds are a bit passé – Prime Suspect is 30 years old after all – but the BBC’s own travails over equal pay, suggests that in real life the fight for equality continues.”

Victoria writer Daisy Goodwin:
Victoria writer Daisy Goodwin: “Surely somewhere in the drama universe we should reflect the world as it is, not as we would like it to be” (Getty)

She said the depiction of powerful women in Bodyguard and Killing Eve were “to some extent utopias, a world seen through a gender and race blind lens”.

While admitting that it may encourage young girls to not assume certain roles and careers were beyond them, she added that there was a chance that “dramas like this are soothing us into thinking that all the battles have been won.”

“Where are the dramas that are reflecting the world of Me Too? Surely somewhere in the drama universe we should reflect the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.”


Read Daisy Goodwin’s column in full in this week’s Radio Times, on sale now