In praise of the women of 'Damages'

Posted at 4:15 PM Apr 19, 2010

By Andrea Grimes

damages pic.jpg
Tonight's the season three finale of the FX legal drama Damages, and thusly I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the characters of Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) and Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) as two of the best-written, feminist characters on TV today.

Feminist! Feminist, I say! Downright feminist.

If you're not familiar with the premise of the show, allow me: Patty Hewes is a stop-at-nothing litigator who sues the pants off big business and will absolutely, positively get the truth out of any lying individual (even if they're lying for good reasons) if it means winning a case by being really, really evilly awful. Ellen Parsons is a fresh-outta-law school lawyer who was hired by Hewes in the first season and alternately acts as her partner and nemesis. The chronology of the show is disordered and highlighted through generally neat but non-obtrusive visual effects denoting a shifted timeline..

Anyway, here's a thing:

What I appreciate most about the show is the depth and dynamics of the female characters Patty and Rose who never have to account for their actions vis-a-vis or in terms of their femaleness. It isn't about these women being "lady" lawyers, or mothers, or wives, it's about them being human beings who do complicated things. They have troubled relationships, great relationships, wayward kids, asshole colleagues. They drink scotch and shoot guns and manipulate people and live and suffer and celebrate, and none of it is mitigated by their gender.

In fact, in the second season, the show deliberately contrasts the kind of "Wow! Ladies doing a thing!" approach that mainstream media takes when portraying women. The storyline partially concerns a magazine profiling Patty Hewes as a mother/wife/working woman and the reporter interviews all kinds of people in Patty's life asking about her ladyness--exactly the opposite of what the show does, which is view Patty as a total person, not a gendered person. It's a great example of something I think feminism is working toward--not women as exceptional or better, but women as humans. Displacing the default male and replacing him with default person.

If you haven't been watching the series--and why not? Glenn Close won two Emmys for it!--it's available on the Netflix as well as certain underground illegal viewing sites that I will not link to here but I bet you can find on your own. You owe it to yourself. And to Patty and Ellen.


Red said:

As one of the 10 people who've watch this show from the start, I love Glenn Close as Patty. Truly phenomenal. Too bad it will probably be canceled.

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