10 Ways that DCI Jane Tennison is a Model for a Complex Female Character

Here are the ten ways that DCI Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect (1991- 2006) is a model for complex female characters:

  1. From the start of the series, DCI Jane Tennison has a high rank because she is an amazing investigator, leader and does not put up with attitude from anybody.
  2. Jane Tennison starts off the series  her forties and ends in her sixties. Aging does not stop her being a sexual human being. She is never sexualized or objectified even though she has many one night stands.
  3. DCI Jane Tennison teaches courses in interrogations because she knows how to push the right buttons on a suspect. When Tennison gets into a room she usually pulls out the truth even from the most reticent subject.
  4. Even the most sexist men on the series eventually come to respect Tennison because she gets the job done and is tougher than any man. Jane Tennison starts this process in Season One when she catches George Marlow who raped and murdered a young girl.
  5. By the end of Prime Suspect, Jane Tennison is a raging alcoholic who has no life outside the force. Nobody tries to make Jane into the perfect human being.
  6. Jane Tennison has flings with men of all different ages and race. One sexual relationship is with the younger Black D.S. Bob Oswald who proves to be as ambitious as Jane.
  7. By Season Four, Jane Tennison moved up from Detective Chief Inspector or DCI to Detective Superintendent.
  8. Jane Tennison  deals with agism and with new sort of policing, when in 2004, she works under one of her junior officers to solve the murder of a Bosnian refugee.
  9. Jane Tennison orders the officers under her to call her gov or boss, but never ma’am. This causes people to think of Tennison in terms of her position rather than her gender which was a real breakthrough in the 1990’s.
  10. Jane Tennison has a biting sarcastic sort of humor.

Jane Tennison is the reason why we have complex dark female characters like Brenda Leigh Johnson, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, President Laura Roslin, Stella Gibson and Kima Greggs. If my readers want to see the character who made it possible for television viewers to see vulnerable, but strong female characters should watch Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison.

Please follow my feminist film and television blog MAE.

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