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‘The Bodyguard’ and its portrayal of women in power

With The Bodyguard becoming the biggest new drama on British TV since 2006, it is easy to see why it has sparked such an influx of conversation. Focusing a troubled war veteran turned principal protection officer, David Budd (Richard Madden), and his assignment to the controversial politician, Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), this contemporary thriller focuses on politics, terrorism and self-conflict between personal beliefs and professional duties.

Interestingly, however, is that for all this new BBC drama has to offer – the political manoeuvring, the ominous Chequers meeting, and the acts of terrorism – a real thinking point for a minority of viewers is the use of numerous women in power. Jed Mecurio, the creator of The Bodyguard and police procedural Line of Duty, has received criticism from some viewers who believe the amount of high-ranking women in power is unrealistic and potentially problematic.

Some of the women holding high-ranking positions include the Home Secretary, the Head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism, an explosives expert, and a sniper. When asked to comment on such criticism, and whether the genders were always specified in the script, Mecurio stated: ‘It was scripted that way, and obviously I need to apologise to all the sexist Neanderthals out on Twitter who were having a go at me. Obviously, they’re completely clued up on the way the real world works.’ He also said that despite a political slant across the series, there is no specific political message being conveyed.

It is also worth noting that this is not the first time Dick’s name has been used in regards to the discussion on sexism

Arguments put forward by the critics against Mecurio for his use of women in power have been slight, but have clearly irked fans of this new series. Many took to Twitter and other means of social media, pointing out the flaws in their claims. This included photographs and articles of Commissioner Cressida Dick CBE QPM, who is currently the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service in London, and Amber Rudd, previous Home Secretary and the fifth woman to hold one of the Great Offices of State. Others include Margaret Beckett, Jacqui Smith and current Prime Minister, Theresa May.  

It is also worth noting that this is not the first time Dick’s name has been used in regards to the discussion on sexism; an article by The Telegraph in March 2018 also focused on how Cressida Dick has encountered sexism since being named the first female head of Scotland Yard. In said piece, she pointed out how a minority of men can struggle to work with a female boss who they think of as a ‘governess or dominatrix.’ She also stated that she still meets men ‘threatened, baffled, and confused’ by her position.

The Bodyguard does not give in to the damsel in distress trope, where female roles paint the helpless, innocent narrative. Instead, it presents entirely realistic roles women can and do have

The Bodyguard shows us just one example of how headstrong and career-focused women are perceived by the irked minority, unable to grasp not only the benefit of strong female roles on a female audience but also the real-life existence of successful and influential women. The Bodyguard does not give in to the damsel in distress trope, where female roles paint the helpless, innocent narrative. Instead, it presents entirely realistic roles women can and do have.

Women in television are influential to any type of female audience for their strength and humanity, equal to any male role, and it is intriguing to see Mecurio challenge those who critique such perceptions. In fact, this is not the first time Mecurio has done so, having attempted to previously ‘divide viewers’ in season 4’s Line of Duty when one of the main protagonists – SI Ted Hastings – was accused of having a bias against female officers.

Episode 5 of The Bodyguard airs Sunday 16th September, 9.00PM.

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