Monday, January 07, 2008

Difficult-to-Like Heroines - Susanna Carr

One of the presents I received during the holidays was the DVD set of Bones. I love this series that shows an FBI agent and a forensic anthropologist solving mysteries.

My family is teasing me about my love for this series. I thought it was because I usually can't handle blood and gore, yet I'm watching a show that deals with human remains and skeletons. But no, they can't understand why I'm beginning to enjoy TV series that showcase difficult, hard-to-like female leads.

And I realize that a pattern is developing in the shows I watch. Bones is about Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who relates better with dead people than live ones. I'm also renting DVDs of The Closer, which has Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, a woman who doesn't know how to play office politics and can't help stepping on toes. And then there is Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect series. She's an ambitious police officer who takes on cases that could jeopardize or make her career, yet she has a tendency to make the stupidest mistakes in her personal life.

All of these women are at the top of their fields, oftentimes specialists in a male-dominated world. They don't play well with others, can often be abrasive and rude, and can make everyone miserable as they fight their personal demons. But I have to admire these women because they are passionate about their mission in life. Temperance Brennan's main goal is to discover the truth. Jane Tennison is a crusader determined to find justice. Brenda Johnson is tenacious in closing a criminal case and will do whatever it takes to get a confession.

These women make great sacrifices in their personal life and they've seen the dark side of humanity. They break the rules but follow their own code of honor. They are strong, brave, smart and alpha. They take care of and protect the people who work for them.

As much as I enjoy watching these shows and learning about the characters, I don't want to be exactly like these women. I definitely wouldn't want to work for them!! I think being a friend or a sister to one of these characters would be frustrating at times, but I would want someone like Temperance, Brenda or Jane to be on my side and help fight my battle.

Do you watch or read a series that has a difficult-to-like heroine? Or do you have to like the heroine to enjoy the story?



Wendy said...

I think I would definitely have to like the heroine even a little to be able to enjoy the story.

I don't think there's anything wrong with smart strong women but what gets me is if they're so good at their jobs, and so tenacious about getting it done then why do they make such mistakes with their personal lives? Shouldn't they give the same tenacity to have a good work life AND personal life?

I'll take a strong, rude heroine over a wimp any day. :)

Karen H in NC said...

Two things I don't like in the novels I read are: Heroines I hate and Heroines to stupid to live. Don't know which is worse. I think TSTL. A heroine I hate at least has a chance to change and redeem herself. Not so with stupid.

Jasmine Haynes said...

Ooh, I love Bones. Although Booth really doesn't seem very FBI-like to me.

I agree with Karen, though, I dislike heroines who are too stupid to live. Anything else, I can handle!

Jasmine Haynes
The Fortune Hunter

Pat Cochran said...

I greatly enjoy the heroines in The
Closer and Bones - they are what so
many of us wish we were. Tough and
tenacious and totally devoted to
their specialization. Given all this, I know why I watch Bones!
D-A-V-I-D B-O-R-E-A-N-A-Z!! Enough

Pat Cochran

Elizabeth said...


I would also have to say to that I prefer strong heroines to the "stupid" ones (and I don't refer to IQ but to the ones that are always depending on the hero to rescue her, has no backbone, likes to whines, etc). These just drives me nuts.

=) Liz

Jane said...

I also love "Bones" and "Prime Suspect." I think Temperance is a more sympathetic character than Jane, whose character is abrasive. In Jane's defense, she has to work extra hard to get respect from her own team. British crime dramas are gritty and that's one of the reasons I love to watch them. The "Inspector Lynley" series is also great. I love the humor and attraction between Booth and Temperance.

Totebag Guest said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Totebag Guest said...

Good point, Wendy. One would think that the heroines would find the same level of success in their personal life as in their career. I think in some of the TV series I've been watching, the heroines feel more in control and successful in their career so they ignore their personal life.

I think a TSTL heroine can ruin a good book or series. Just the other day I read a book that I really couldn't enjoy because the heroines made some stupid decisions (and I think the author did that just to create conflict). I like watching a heroine transform from someone who I may not like into someone I admire, although it's tough not giving up on the book in the first couple of chapters.

LOL, Pat! I'm with you there. I haven’t seen David Boreanaz before Bones and I totally love him!

Jane – I agree that Temperance already has the respect that Jane is working for. I also think she's more sympathetic because she's trying to improve her social skills. I haven't watched many British crime drama, but I might try the Inspector Lynley series.

Susanna Carr

Pat Cochran said...


I first came across David Boreanaz
on the "Buffy" show where he por-
trayed the vampire named Angel.
Daughter #2 was a fan of the show
and I caught a glimpse, now and
then. She also enjoyed the Buffy
spin-off show called (of course!)
"Angel." My glimpses of the show,
and David, became more frequent.
Now, I'm an out-and-out fan of
David's and "Bones." I'm also a
great fan of all the women on the
show, but most especially of
Temperance. They are all so
strong and knowledgeable!
FYI - There are tapes of both
Buffy and Angel available on the

Pat Cochran

Estella said...

I don't have to like the heroine to enjoy the story, if it is well written.

Maureen said...

The Closer is one of my favorite shows. Brenda is such a great character, talking so sweet one minute and arresting someone the next.

Bronwyn Jameson said...

Susanna, great post. I LOVE this heroine type because of the positive traits. Intelligence, dedication, strength of purpose. But we also know there's more going on beneath the abrasive or stiff facade. We know there's a powerful backstory, motivation for her demeanour, and that she's protecting a core conflict or vulnerability. She's a darn sight more interesting than Ms Perfect or Ms TSTL. *g*

Cryna said...

I prefer heroine's that show some grit and not ones that have to have the hero take care of them in order to survive. I like it when they can think for themselves. I really have to like the heroine a little for me to enjoy the story, and not feel that I would like to shake them sometimes or think to myself - "oh grab a brain".

Dina said...

I loved David Boreanaz in Angel and Buffy, but have not had a chance to get attached to Bones. It is good, but I only catch it once in a while.

mammakim said...

I would have to say that I do have to like the heroine to enjoy the story. If there is a dreamy hero and I hate the heroine then I wouldn't want mr dreamy to be stuck with her :)

Virginia said...

I like the strong heroine. I also watch Bones and The Closer. I haven't seen Prime Suspect yet but will check it out. Crossing Jordan is another good one that has a strong heroine, you need to check it out.

Amy said...

I think that both Bones and Brenda Lee are likeable. I love both of those shows. Though they may at times be irritating, they are overall likeable.

Nathalie said...

I usually find it necessary to like the heroine and the hero to like a book... an exception, Devil's Mistress by C.Coulter... the heroine was obnoxious, but the ending made me like the book nonetheless.

Lily said...

I don't really read a book when the heroine is just plain stupid or if she is just obnoxious, ususally.