Thursday, September 17, 2015

Strong Women Series #7: The Women of 'Rookie Blue' [Contributor: Hope]

When Rookie Blue started, it began with five rookies – three women and two guys. That should’ve tipped us off right there about this series’ attitude towards women. After all, the executive producer/creator is a woman. All three creators, in fact, are women. With that in mind, and in the spirit of Jenn's It’s A Man’s, Man’s World post, I thought I’d see how Rookie Blue measured up in terms of female representation in the writers' room.

The results? 53 of 74 episodes were written by women. That’s (rounding up) 72% of the series. And only 3 of those 53 were co-written with a man. You have to look ahead to episode seven of season one to find the first episode penned by a man. SHOWS SUPPORTING LADIES, folks. I’m so incredibly proud of this series for so many reasons, and this is just another one to add to my list.

Moving on to our main cast of ladies: all of these characters are strong women. They’re cops, so of course they have physical strength and a required amount of emotional fortitude. But that’s not the point, is it? Being strong, to the rest of us, isn’t that simple. It’s awesome seeing female cops take down criminals of all kinds. Truly. They’re amazing role models... but NOT just because of their tactical skills; they're role models because they’re human. They have emotional scars, individual fears, and moments when they break down and cry. Sometimes, on a call, they’re scared and don’t know what to do – even when they’re not technically rookies anymore. Their hair gets messed up and they look bedraggled after a rough day – like they would in the real world – and they don't really care. They act completely dorky and awkward. They admit when they’re wrong and they make sure they’re acknowledged when they’re right. They command respect, and follow the rules and what their consciences tell them is right. They fall in love and get their hearts broken and then go right back out to solve crimes and protect their citizens. They’re best friends with each other, despite their differences. They’re competitive as cops, but they’re not petty towards one other. In fact, even when they’re not getting along, they seem to follow our motto here at Just About Write: Ladies Supporting Ladies.

So let's celebrate what makes each of these ladies truly strong.

WARNING: Spoilers for episodes scattered throughout the series follow. If you haven't seen the whole series, proceed with caution.

a.k.a. Quirky Ray of Sunshine

Chloe is the kind of person who means only good. She babbles until she simultaneously drives everyone collectively crazy and earns their endearment. She gets in over her head, she’s fiercely loyal, and she makes mistakes. She brings something to the show that no other character has. The other characters are funny. Some of them are more optimistic than others. But no one else had this level of energy or quite this level of optimism.

However, Chloe’s more than just comic relief, which she easily could have been in any other show. When she was shot at the end of season four, her husband came onto the scene. Her secret husband she had never mentioned to anyone, let alone Dov. She explained that Wes, her husband, was controlling and jealous. He took the free spirit that is Chloe and turned her into someone she wasn’t. So she moved on. She didn’t get a divorce; she just moved on with her life. She didn’t think about it clearly (example: Wes had control over her medical care), and she didn’t think about it clearly when she erased the camera footage that showed Wes kissing her. Which leads to her and Dov breaking up instead of trying to work past everything that had happened to them. Chloe moves so quickly that she sometimes simply doesn’t stop and think things through or have a serious conversation. She just keeps moving.

We see her overcome that in "Ninety Degrees," when she confronted Dov about their complete avoidance of the topic of Wes. She hadn’t been denying that she’d been in the wrong. That wasn’t the significance of this moment. Rather, this scene forced her to stop and slow down. It forced her to drop a lot of her babbling humor, which – like Gail’s sarcasm, for example – is her own defense mechanism. This moment let her be open, doubly honest (let’s face it, she’s usually pretty honest), and serious, which was exactly what she needed to be in that instance.

However, there’s nothing wrong with her the way Chloe is. This is simply example of how she got in her own way. That’s part of my point, actually: all the things that get in these characters’ ways are also integral pieces of who they are. Flaws don’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It’s clear that Chloe owns who she is and rather enjoys it (something we should all strive for).

a.k.a. Queen of Snark

Gail has many walls, and she uses her A+ level sarcasm skills to act as her first – and effective – line of defense. Gradually, we see her open up more. She becomes an integral part of the circle of friends. Her snark becomes more good-natured. She tries to adopt a child, which – can you even imagine season one Gail wanting to do that? This was a major move for her. Then she chooses to NOT keep trying to adopt that child, because she believes someone else will do a better job. She doesn’t win here, and Gail Peck likes to win. She gives in, she admits to her flaws… and she moves forward.

I don’t think I’d realized how much Gail had lightened up over the seasons until we saw her momentarily regress after Steve was arrested. Her walls came back up. Her snark was amped back up, top-notch. She was falling apart inside and her reaction was to act like she had everything together and push everyone away in the process. Let’s face it: a lot of us have that reaction. We live in a society where strong means not crying, not falling apart, and most certainly, not showing that the world is getting to you. But one of the strongest things Gail has ever done was let Sadie go with the other family and cry, right there in the Black Penny. She stopped pretending to be strong and simultaneously showed just how strong she was. It’s easier to run away, to push others away, to hide our emotions. Call it avoidance or procrastination; it’s the easy way out. And the easy way out isn’t usually considered the strong way out. Gail came to terms with what she had to do. She stopped pretending that the repercussions of what her brother did didn’t get to her. She was honest, brave, and strong.

Gail might have acted like she didn’t need anyone or care what anyone thought about her, but she really did. She wanted everyone to know she was strong and brave, so she acted tough and independent. A lot of this had to do with her family and the standards they’d set for her.

That wasn’t right for her though. Gail did need others, and she found people that helped her along the way. Her friends and co-workers let her into their lives, even if she was hesitant about letting them into hers. And it was with the rookies that she truly became herself.

a.k.a. Pillar of Loyalty and Common Sense

I feel like Traci doesn’t get the focus she deserves. She’s a single mom who always puts her kid first and somehow balances her demanding job atop it. Traci worked her way up to detective quickly which, for the record, makes her the only rookie to make detective before the season six finale. She lost her fiancĂ©, Jerry, and yet kept moving forward. She was kidnapped and gave her attacker a good piece of her mind. Her boyfriend blew up the evidence locker and she vowed never to see him again, just like that. Even more, she’s always been there for the others, especially Andy. She’s good-humored and pretty optimistic, but also realistic and grounded.

Traci’s the only female rookie not in a relationship as of the season six finale. And I liked that. She has her son. She has her friends and coworkers. Theo’s father wasn’t such a good guy, and she was better off without him. She almost married Jerry, a good guy. He died. And frankly, Traci could have continued to be single for the remainder of the series after that, as far as I’m concerned. Jerry’s death was sudden and shocking and heartbreaking. More than that, he died in the line of duty. And yet, her next relationship was with Steve, another cop.

Steve wasn’t Jerry. He shared some characteristics with Gail, but he lacked her heart of gold. Traci turned her back on Steve the moment it was confirmed he was the one who planted the bomb. She did it to protect her son, out of loyalty to her friends, and also for herself. She’d been in a volatile relationship with Theo’s father. She’d been in love with someone who was a really good person, and would have probably been a wonderful stepfather for her son. Traci didn’t have to settle for Steve. There was that nice cop from the season five finale who kept telling her about fairytales; they could have brought him back in, and implied that she would date him. But the writers didn’t have to and they didn’t, and I think it was the right choice. Traci was happy in the season six finale. She had her son and her family of friends. She didn’t need a knight in shining armor to make her happy. She’d built herself a life that did that just fine.

(Shout-out to Noelle, who happened to be in the GIF I chose. She’s awesome. Bonus GIF follows.)

And last but not least...

a.k.a. Super Cop of Imperfection

Out of all the rookies, I always related the most to Andy. She has the most similar personality to my own. She’s awkward at times. She’s dorky, stubborn, a true rule-follower, and competitive. And she has faults. Plenty of them.

When we first meet Andy, she’s green. Very, very green, like all the rest of the rookies. And when she’s scared by problems in her personal life, she runs away. She grows past that but that flaw is never something that’s meant to make us look unkindly upon her character. It’s a flaw. If we didn’t have flaws, we’d be very boring, static people.

This series has always been about all the rookies, but in many ways, Andy has been our main character. She falls for Luke –– he cheats on her. She falls for Sam –– he pushes her away. So she runs away (in this instance I do think it was right for her to distance herself from Sam, but that’s beside the point). She falls for Nick, and he’s so, so good to her. But she realizes she never stopped loving Sam and to be fair to all three of them, she breaks up with Nick and tries one more time with Sam. All those decisions take bravery and strength. And the whole time, she’s learning. By season six, she stops running away, even though she’s faced with one of her toughest problems yet. She shows so much character growth. If there’s one thing Andy’s refused to do, it’s settle. Sticking around and working things out isn’t settling; it’s pushing towards an ideal. But it takes two people to work things out, and finally Andy and Sam were both able to take their problems and make a commitment to work through them.

Unfailingly, Andy has also never compromised her role as a police officer. She’s beyond excited to try and train to be a "super cop." She almost misses her own wedding to help those who needed her. Even on her first day, she arrests Sam and firmly stands by her decision to do so. She adheres to the rules of being a cop, and she only bends them when they’re standing in the way of true justice. She’s considerate of others’ feelings but when it comes down to it, she speaks her mind and does what she ultimately has to do. She gives second chances. She maintained a friendly relationship with Marlo, and she’s genuinely happy for Sam about being a father, even if it hurts her so deeply. She helped Nick when he was passed out in one of the conference rooms (remember the muffins?). She gives advice and genuinely wants to help anyone and everyone. She’s competitive but not cruel or negative. She owns her flaws, says what’s bothering her, and isn’t afraid to show the world that she’s not only a "super cop," but also imperfectly human. And that’s what makes her a perfect example for others to follow. THAT’s what makes her a strong woman.

In television, there are a lot of tropes. There’s nothing necessarily bad about some tropes, but others tend to take reality and skew it. Television, whether we want it to or not, influences the way we think about the world and its people… and ourselves. We think about the situations characters are forced into and the decisions they make, and we learn by example. We compare ourselves to those characters. And when those characters are "super cops"… well, shows can make the mistake of turning the characters into unattainable pillars of emotional and physical strength, and the audience ends up relating to the characters less, all the while being harder and harder on themselves.

Instead of all of that, Rookie Blue built relatable characters. The four main female characters of the series aren’t slight variations of each other. They’re unique and quirky and well-rounded. And they’re all strong, in their unique ways. They each bring something to their job, their team, their circle of friends, that the others don’t. They take the television standard of a strong woman and blow it to pieces. Because people can fit into one broad category and yet be completely different kinds of people. There isn’t a cookie-cutter recipe. They are human. We are human. And as a result, Rookie Blue becomes all the more realistic and influential. We connect with these characters because they’re not superhuman –– they’re human beings with flaws. They joke. They laugh. They break down crying. They solve crime and fight for justice. They care about each other and fight with each other and experience life together. They grow together. And you can’t grow if you don’t have flaws. They show plenty of courage in their line of duty, but a good deal of their courage is shown in overcoming their flaws: something we can all aspire and relate to.

These four ladies have set wonderful examples for all of us as humans. Not by being perfect examples of how we should act, but by having flaws, growing past them, and changing. They’re realistic, eclectic, and unique characters who are strong on their own terms and in their own ways. I only wish I could have gone through and re-watched every Rookie Blue episode before writing this post, because there is so much more about these characters I could discuss. I also wish I could’ve stopped and talked about the acting of Missy Peregrym, Charlotte Sullivan, Enuka Okuma, and Priscilla Faia, but I personally know little about acting, other than that theirs is brilliant. But it all boils down to the fact that these are well-written, well-rounded, imperfect, specific, realistic, and complicated characters.

That is what has made them such strong, fascinating characters to watch.


  1. This is a great article, and pinpoints all the reasons to love these wonderful women, but if you've made one small mistake. You've got Gail giving up Sadie, who is the drug addict woman of negotiable affection, who shows up every now and then. And while the idea of Gail trying to adopt Sadie is kind of hilarious, the child's name was Sophie.

    1. Thank you for commenting, and for your kind words! Good catch with that typo. The irony is that was one of the paragraphs I erased and retyped parts of in my second draft...I could've sworn I used Sophie the first time around. Although truly, Gail trying to adopt Sadie IS funny, so at least I got a chuckle out of my mistake. :)

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