Treasure Hunt

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Juliet O'Hara: Badass Lady Cop (Women & Media Post #5)

So as I worked my way through the fifth season of the TNT show, Psych, I eventually arrive at the last episode of the season, Yang 3 in 2D, I noticed something very interesting going on with resident badass lady cop, Juliet (Jules) O'Hara: she was a badass lady cop on television whose motivations for being a badass lady cop were not rooted solely in trauma. They didn't even begin there! She has experienced trauma, of course, but it's only really been seen in the previous season and is directly tied to this particular episode. So where am I going with this? I essentially am writing a love letter to the writers of Psych for handling Juliet and her trauma the way they do. For all of the shows glaring problems in terms of...well, just about everything concerning representation, I feel like Juliet has been a fairly consistant beacon of hope for badass lady cops on television (or really any media text). 
The most remarkable thing about Juliet as a character is that she turns the stereotype of the badass lady cop into something viewers rarely see: a woman who became a cop for the sake of being a cop. As Kirsten Marthe Lentz points out, "Everywhere [women] are taking up weapons in the name of justice [...] or hysterically in the name of jealousy or sexual promiscuity" (p. 374). It was just what she wanted to do in life. It wasn't because she experienced some horrific trauma in her past that motivated her to become a cop to exact revenge on the world that did her wrong. Juliet became a cop because she wanted to. 
Even after Juliet has been through the extremely traumatic experience of being kidnapped by a serial killer, she still does not revert to this stereotypical idea of arming herself to the teeth both physically and emotionally so that she can eventually work her way back to eventually seek revenge on her kidnapper. Instead, she takes up a job out of the field, filing papers upon returning to the force. She then comes back to her detective position and is essentially the same person she was before she left, but with a few emotional scars that really don't get in the way of her being able to effectively carry out the various tasks her high-stress job requires. 
This episode in particular struck me as something really wonderful in the way that the writers have treated Juliet as a character. A woman named Allison Crowley comes in to the station claiming she has been attacked by the same person who came after Juliet in the previous season. Her story is met with skepticism from just about everyone except Juliet (and eventually Shawn, the male fake psychic detective and show's main character). When Allison's report is deemed false by the Santa Barbara Police Department, (the now disbelieving) Juliet and Shawn have a discussion outside where Shawn says to Juliet that she should give her the benefit of the doubt and that she, of all people, should understand where Allison is coming from. He asks, "Are you afraid to believe her?" Once Juliet is on board again, she's very no-nonsense and takes the case very seriously. 
After finding out Allison is actually the attacker's apprentice, Juliet gets in a physical altercation with her and subdues her while continuing to search for and save Shawn and Gus from being trapped with the attacker. The day is eventually saved and, upon seeing Juliet covered in scrapes and bruises, asks what happened to her in a very concerned tone to which she replies with a smile, "You should see her!" Later, Shawn finds Juliet in an interrogation room where she is supposed to be writing her statement. She tells Shawn she can't write it because she'll have to "relive it again" (in reference to this instance and her kidnapping) and that they're just "marking time" until the next deranged criminal comes after them. Shawn then grabs Juliet's hand and says, "I would protect you" and Juliet smiles and replies, "I would protect you right back."
Essentially, this whole rant is my way of saying how grateful I am that Psych doesn't perpetuate the stereotypical "badass lady with a gun" that Marthe Lentz discusses. Juliet doesn't respond to her trauma with violence, she just moves on with her life. She doesn't forget or pretend to, but she doesn't let it dictate her entire life and make her access to a gun an avenue for her to exact revenge on someone who did something horrific to her. Juliet just does what she does best: being a good detective.

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