[personal profile] singerdiva01
As part of the ongoing talking meme some of us are doing, today I'm tackling [livejournal.com profile] astreamofstars question: Talk to me about Sharon Raydor as a character. What's your take on her? What do you love about her? If you've watched her in The Closer as well as Major Crimes, how do you feel about the differences in portrayal from a feminist perspective?

I was a latecomer to Major Crimes; I mainlined all three seasons on Amazon a few months ago and just finished watching Mary McDonnell’s whole arc in The Closer last night. I’m not sure what took me so long other than the (now I know, irrational) fear that watching Mary playing a character other than Laura would impede my BSG writing.

I adore the Sharon Raydor character in both shows because she’s an intelligent, no nonsense professional who knows how to get the job done without needlessly stepping on other people. I’ve read and watched Mary talk about playing professional women her age and she’s very cognizant of the overt sexism someone like Raydor would have faced coming up in the LAPD and the covert sexism she still faces as the boss in a male dominated environment. I see her commitment to the rules and complete, almost always unemotional professionalism as a way of managing those barriers and it makes me so happy that it’s intentional on Mary’s part.

Because I watched the shows backwards, I was shocked and delighted to realize Raydor was introduced as an explicitly feminist character. (Not that the word was used but it was implied in her leading the women’s committee for the LAPD as well as the concern she shows for Brenda as a female leader in the department.)

However, and again probably because I watched backwards, I was very aware of the shift in her portrayal from when the writers saw her as a really great guest star and foil to Brenda Leigh to when they started looking at her as the lead for a new spinoff. It was clear they felt they had to “humanize” her, and that in itself irked me a little bit, as if the PTB didn’t think the audience would respond to a lead who was such a feminist hardass. I noticed “humanize” meant “sexualize” in some cases -- we didn’t see Mary’s beautiful legs until later in the seventh season, after they’d already started writing Major Crimes. That scene in which she runs into Goldman and the camera pans up from her heels to her beautiful hair, leaning against the car in that pose, was like the writers saying, “see how sexy the wicked witch can be?”

That said, I liked how the writers made a point in the seventh season to show us that Sharon wasn’t just a paper pusher; she’s also a highly capable police officer who can shoot and drive offensively right along with every other member of the Major Crimes team. The beanbag gun scene wasn’t just frakking badass, it was also a perfect example of how women have to earn the respect of their male peers by doing something considered “masculine” not just well but exceptionally well.

Sharon’s overt and behind the scenes support of Brenda was perhaps my favorite feminist aspect of her character on The Closer. She saw and empathized with the sexism Brenda often experienced, even if the younger woman might not have recognized it as such, and stepped in to run interference and have her back whenever she could. She never explicitly told Brenda she was trying to mentor her; she simply acted as the workplace ally all women find themselves needing during their career. It made me think there must have been other women who did the same for her when she was rising through the ranks and was, as a good feminist would, returning the favor.

I also really appreciated how the show runners handled showing off her more maternal side in Major Crimes without taking anything away from her strength and professionalism in the murder room. It wasn’t the cliche of ‘this woman is a mother so she must have a softer side’ but rather a nuanced expansion on the character we already knew. I also really appreciate that we’re past the point where powerful women have to be “perfect” to maintain their power; Jackson Raydor and the story of her failed marriage told us that, like everyone, she’s had trouble in her personal life while also reiterating the specific brand of sexism a woman of her generation would have had to navigate. That line where she says the time has long passed when a wedding ring was a professional asset was absolutely perfect.

I could go on and on -- I find the change in her wardrobe from The Closer to Major Crimes fascinating and her evolving relationship with the men on her team is an endless source of analysis -- but I’ve probably reached the limit of reader patience for one post. I may come back to this topic once the new season starts as I hope we get to see more of her kicking ass rather than tearily worrying about Rusty. Am always happy to chat with anyone offline about all my feels for MC and Sharon. ;)
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