Two feminist takes on HBO's 'True Detective'


Marty is the Yellow King. The yellow hair, the antlers on his “ten-point buck” - even his ex-wife clued us that he’s taken to “religion” a while back while their marriage was rocky, and that she didn’t like it (why??).
Why DON’T we see Marty gettin’ religious? Is it a Tuttle church he goes to?

bro-bonding over “crazy pussy,”

I get the feeling that Nussbaum and I are watching different shows.


Rust went deep undercover but did not solve the mystery yet.

Making Marty or Rust the killer would be the worst red herring in tv history. It would be up there with jumping the shark, nuking the fridge, jumping the couch.



Don’t miss Molly Lambert’s take on the show and its female characters, at Grantland…


Darn it, after reading Emily’s article I feel guilty for liking True Detective.
Shame on me…


Martying the King?

I’m not keeping track of how many times we’ve seen Marty and Rust naked, but I’m pretty sure we’ve had some male nudity.

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There should be many more teleproductions with strong women, but making it a litmus test with which to gauge every great TV show is counterproductive. This is especially the case for works like True Detective, which are essentially period pieces set in male dominated fields.

Realism can be used as a cop out, but here it’s core to the setting and the story.


Just because you recognise that you come across as a scold in your writing - doesn’t mean you aren’t one.

I agree that the female characters are written a bit shallow in this show - I would prefer more depth there, but does that make it a bad show? Must we grade all of our entertainment against a diversity check list - and feel guilty for enjoying it if it falls short? I enjoy a good Dashiel Hammet novel - but his female characters definitely fall short as living, breathing embodiments. Throw those dog-eared paperback in the fire along with my HBO subscription.


interesting…i had a bit of a different take, but maybe i forgot to wear my feminist goggles when watching.

Really is anyone, male or female, being portrayed positively in this show so far?

My impressions so far is that the female characters who are in this show seem to have their shit together a heck of a lot more then the male characters, even the sex symbol mistress is self confident and throws Marty to the curb because she wants more from life.

To me this is a show about 2 cops that happen to be males and the train wreck of their lives as they are “big bad dogs that the world needs to keep even bigger and badder dogs at bay” to loosely quote Rust when Marty asks him if they are bad people. Two guys living out roles that society has cast them in that no longer make sense, they are as much characters as this is a story, the depiction of the poor neighborhoods, the biker gangs, the other cops, everything in this show is portrayed dramatically as the idea or possibly stereotype of it that is being described from the biased perspective of the 2 main characters, that is what makes its telling so fascinating in this format. This isn’t “the world”, this is “their world”. That is the crucial difference that makes this show brilliant.

I love watching this show so far, i’ve been very impressed with it.

At least that is my 2 cents.


Who said you were supposed to feel guilty??? Are you opposed to all TV criticism – does it all ruin your fun – or just the feminist kind?

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I’m not opposed to TV criticism. And I think you are trying to imply I’m anti-feminist or something. Wow - three question marks? I was just making a point but don’t want to ratchet this up to a shouting match. Have a great day!!!

Yeah, I remember good ol’ 1995, when women were shallow and badly treated… Those were good times.

I don’t think you’ve any need for guilt: I agree with your assessment. The article threw me when it said that the flashbacks “are supposed to be what really happened”. That’s definitely not how I interpreted it: the whole show is coloured by Rust and Marty’s perceptions and memories.

Part of the reason why the female characters seem one-dimensional is because EVERY character except Rust and Marty seems one-dimensional, even the male ones. The police captain, say, or the priest. The only dimension of them that the show explores is how Marty and Rust experienced them. I’m sure they have plenty of other stuff going on in their lives, but for one reason or another, the duo doesn’t care. This is especially telling with Marty’s wife.

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Don´t need to be a ritual murderer for someone not liking you taking to religion, especially if you´re a sanctimonious ass like Marty.

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This show is painting a slightly surreal picture of a southern hellhole, where women are disrespected, children abused and men tortured by their inner demons. Nobody is happy here and yes, it is told from a male perspective. I don´t get what the problem is. To me, this is a work of art and I wouldn´t complain about the way it tells its story from a male perspective anymore than I would complain about Kafka or hemingway telling theirs, which is not at all.

Seeing as the structure of the show is such that every season will have a distinct story and characters, maybe the next season will tell the story of a female detective from a female perspective. That would be awesome as well and I´m sure nobody would complain.

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I think (i hope) that the cardboard cut-out nature of the women in the show is because we see the world through Rust and Marty’s eyes and they are not always nice people. Rust has seen too much and Marty’s a gigantic hypocrite.

They reviewed the first episode of this show on Boars Gore and Swords podcast and brilliantly pointed out that everyone but the two main stars might as well be NPCs with a dialogue tree.

I too would love to see a female detective duo in the second series to assuage my Straight White Male guilt over loving this series.

Also as a weird cosmic coincidence i read the King in Yellow for the first time just a week before i had heard of True Detective.

That’s my reading of it too. The male characters are nothing but destructive monsters- even Rust. Rust channels his destruction against himself; should he prove the hero and catch the monster at the heart of the mystery, that will be more of a happy accident than because of any positive elements of his character. But he’s far more sympathetic than Marty, who is simply a monster. Oh, he’s a tiny monster. He’s the sort of monster we see exposed in the news, cluck our tongues, and comment on this is why we can’t trust cops. Maybe we make excuses for him. He’s a little evil in a world overshadowed by a big one.

Contrast that with Maggie- who actively tries to make good decisions. Arguably, her worst mistake was having sex with Rust. Or Beth, who escaped teen prostitution (and has a perfectly reasonable crush on the man who is her hero- or does she? I’m suspicious of her motives).

It’s easy to view the show as the worst sort of casual, simple, feminism- men are monsters and women can only succeed by escaping their orbits. With these characters though, that stance isn’t wrong- Rust and Marty are terrible people who will drag anyone around them down.

So, no, this is not a show with strong female characters. The show, through its characters, treats women as sources of sex, and as property to be managed and controlled. It seems as if the show is commenting on that fact, that it’s lampshading its biases. It may be too generous to say that it’s subversive, but it knows what it’s doing.