Look, if you read Monday’s post you’ll know that when I switch on the television the result is much like plugging my frontal lobes into and electricity socket labelled, “For the love of fuck!”. That’s because I routinely see the sort of programming that psychologists use to traumatise chimps and that’s why I was chuffed to stumble upon True Detective, a show so intelligent, unvarnished, bleak, challenging and dark that it made this blog look like a Women’s Institute haiku competition. Until, that is, I got three episodes in and started to recognise a pattern, a pattern consisting solely of an endless stream of dead and naked women.
If you haven’t seen True Detective, here’s the deal. Mathew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are detectives working on a case in 1995, the case being the ritual murder of a young woman. The story is essentially told through flashbacks and McConaughey and Harrelson do a spectacular job of it. I shit you not, just watching McConaughey light a fag was enough to glue me to the sofa. That’s not the problem, though. The problem is that for the duration of season one all the female characters are killed or bare-arsed or both. Whether they be wives, mistresses, girlfriends or murder victims, they are barely ever dressed providing viewers with such a parade of nips that I felt the urge to hang up my coat. Even the opening credits have image after image of nude women in various stages of death or orgasm. So while I was addicted to the acting I was repelled by the fact that every women I saw was either screwed or slaughtered.
Now, the show is written by Nic Pizzolatto, the alleged brain behind this toss-strewn depiction of females. And he’s angry that he’s been caught out in his desperate effort to take a giant shit on womankind. In response to criticism he recently said in The Sunday Times, “Not I, or any other artist, is obliged towards any political issue, society or the fellowship of humankind. Their only obligation is to the story and characters. The very idea that something needs to include a political equanimity is ridiculous and I can’t think of what could be more restrictive for art and storytelling than this checklist of elements it needs to satisfy.” Oh, and he adds, “I don’t have to respond to that criticism because frankly it’s beneath me.”
And that’s why Pizzolatto needs to turn his detective skills not to 1995 Louisiana but to his own inability to misunderstand why women don’t want to be depicted as meat.
You see, if there were no female detectives in the Deep South in 1995, fine. I don’t have a problem with that. If Pizzolatto is aiming for accuracy then I don’t expect him to litter police departments with women when, in reality, there weren’t any, much in the same ways that I wouldn’t expect Z Cars to feature a female chief constable. Neither, though, do I expect every woman who does pop up to be fuck or felony fodder. The lack of women in the police force does not necessarily mean that they were, instead, littering the streets like rubbish.
Seriously, I may not have lived in the Bayou in 1995 but I very much doubt that all the female inhabitants ever did was screw detectives and wander about with their tits hanging out. I don’t expect Louisiana to be depicted as the cultural centre of the western world but neither do I expect it to be depicted as an open prison where the woman are held captive for the sole intention of draining the ballsacks of its menfolk. I might be wrong, but something tells me that in 1995 the women there were routinely clothed or upright for at least some of the time.
I have no idea why Pizzolatto doesn’t understand this. He could easily have littered True Detective with mistresses, wives and victims without them being undressed but he chose not to. Mad Men manages to depict a deeply misogynistic world without resorting to lingering nip shots, after all. Pizzolatto seems to think that women are angry about how he’s portrayed them because they are shrill feminists who want to be persistently portrayed as astronauts and heads of state. He’s got that so wrong he may be beyond help.
Imagine if the roles were reversed in True Detective where women were the detectives and men were the victims. The opening credits would include images of knackers and arse-cracks and men gurning as they shoot their load. The scenes thereafter would be of two female detectives mumbling over dead, naked men left in poses that would leave sunburn on their biffins. They’d then go on to shag their way around town, behind the backs of their husbands and children, and in said sex scenes the women would only be visible from the neck up while their male conquests would provide viewers with full frontals. Oh, and don’t forget that when their conquests then have sex with other people, the female detectives would kick down their doors, grab them by the throats and call them whores. Ludicrous? You said it.
Yeah, McConaughey and Harrelson play characters in a willy-waving world but putting clothes on the women wouldn’t have lessened that portrayal. Pizzolatto says that the women are naked because the entire show is from the point of view of the male characters but that’s just his get-out clause for indulging in lazy stereotypes fuelled by his own ignorance.
If Pizzolatto wants to prove he’s not the misogynist dickwad he seems to be he has the chance to do it in series two of True Detective. It won’t include McConaughey and Harrelson’s characters and will be set in a completely different set of circumstances, so for his sake I hope that it includes, at the very least, women who are not at permanent risk of getting chilblains on their mudflaps. It will still be called True Detective but this time it also needs to be true to life because, right now, the only arse I can see is Pizzolatto himself.