The Anguished World of the Female Detective: Navigating the Nexus of Trauma and Gender in Contemporary Crime TV Series

Kriti Arya
Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts
Symbiosis International (Deemed University)


The element of trauma in works of crime fiction has been previously examined in the context of social histories and political events such as war. Such explorations of trauma have been confined within the bounds of either a masculinised or medicalised framework, which often tends to isolate aspects of emotionality or the personal experience of distress. Even the portrayal of gendered trauma has traditionally been centred towards the victim in the form of sexual violence and heavily focalised through the perspective of the male detective. Moving into the twenty-first century, however, the figure of the detective in popular consciousness comes to be represented as an ambiguous hero who is just as susceptible to shock, trauma and injury as the characters who do not bear the responsibility of restoring the social order of the world. The detective’s traumatic experience, therefore, becomes an integral component of their sense of self. With the increasing focus on the figure of the female detective in contemporary crime television, the question of how trauma operates from a gendered lens in works of this genre becomes pertinent. However, current literature examining this intersection is scarce. This article, therefore, explores how the element of gender-based trauma functions within the narratives of contemporary crime series and what role the traumatic experiences of female investigators play in informing the rationale with which they solve crimes. Moreover, the article highlights how public and personal trauma(s) are represented in such contexts. This is achieved through close reading and textual analysis of the recent television series Mare of Easttown (2021) and Marcella (2016-2021) in order to understand the framework and techniques through which the nexus of trauma and gender operate within crime fiction.    

Keywords: Trauma, Female Detectives, Crime TV, Contemporary Fiction, Gender