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Monday, 03 December 2012 17:41

Exploring Gender: Procedural Dramas' Portrayal of Trans* Characters

Written by  Cael



Procedural dramas allow audiences into the world of detectives, cops, FBI agents. Some follow a simple formula like CSI, Law and Order, and Cold Case, others are more character-driven like Castle, Bones, and White Collar. How are trans* individuals characterized in this formula?

I tend to prefer the more character-driven dramas. They all focus mainly on the mystery but also provide character development, allowing a look into relationships and motivations. Most of these shows have not really dealt with trans* characters. In season 4, Bones aired “The He in the She.” After finding a victim with a male bone structure, the team discovers her name was Patricia, and she was trans*. Despite having a very insensitive title, Bones went outside of the stereotypes within the episode, respecting the victim’s identity once they discovered the truth. Booth thinks someone murdered her because she was trans*, which would be the stereotypical portrayal of the story, but the motive turns out to be something much more innocuous. This storyline allows a trans* character to be portrayed as simply another person who walked into some bad circumstances.

CSI and Law and Order, on the other hand, have a history of subscribing to stereotypes. It is pretty much certain if you see a foster kid on Law and Order, they are the one who committed the murder. Likewise, trans* characters tend to be the ones to commit the crimes or to die. These shows tend to use trans* individuals to sensationalize their storylines. CSI has more of a record for this than Law and Order, a list of which can be found here as well as a great analysis of CSI’s issues with respecting trans* characters. Of the straight procedurals, Cold Case is the one which has been praised by GLAAD for its portrayal of trans* characters.

What are your impressions of procedural dramas? Are there any episodes featuring trans* characters I should know about? Let me know what you think in the comments, message me here or on tumblr, or email me.



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