I was really surprised to see this article on the Australian television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Primarily I was surprised because a mainstream blog had developed an entire article to one of the obscure costume dramas that only people who subscribe to Acorn TV seem to know about.
(Note: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a murder mystery show set in Australia in the 1920s. It features a firebrand flapper/female detective who helps the police solve murders, whether they want her to help or not!)
I tend not to read netflix reviews, but it is a bit disappointing that people are still so narrow-minded. Actually one of the first things I was pleasantly surprised to find in this series, was a female PI who philandered as much as much as all the male PIs. It is a little bit unbelievable for an unmarried woman in the twenties, but also a bit believable (it’s the twenties!) and more importantly, more fun . . . this is fiction after all! The show is light, upbeat, fashionable, and refreshingly devoid of slut-shaming characters . . . too bad that the audience seems to be making up for that last point and missing out on all the other good stuff!
In particular all these shallow Netflix reviewers are missing out on a show that has not only a great female character, but a bunch of great female characters and a great community in which these female characters can go about their business. The women in this show do not fall into the old stereotypes of judging each other and being ‘catty.’ Rather they support each other and try to stand up for each other, even when they don’t really understand each other or agree with each other. For example, Miss Fisher’s right-hand girl Dot, doesn’t really agree with her carefree lifestyle, but she tries not to judge and see all the great things about Miss Fisher and is grateful for her friendship, mentorship, and protection. She even takes a page out of Miss Fisher’s book when her priest tells her she needs to dump her Protestant boyfriend (Ack! Kissing Protestants! The horror!). Miss Fisher and Dot in turn help many other women, not by judging them and shaming them, but by just facing the facts and helping to stop suffering and injustice as best they can.
These two are supported by a cast of equally accepting male characters: Miss Fisher’s stodgy but dreamy police Inspector, Dot’s Protestant police constable, their reliable housekeeper Mr. Butler, and two handymen. These men recognize these women as being somewhat anomalous but try their best to understand their unique ways and support them in their quests for justice.
But finally, the other great thing about this series is that it showcase women’s history in a refreshing way, in that it actually shows women lives. I love costume dramas but am continually frustrated by them because so often lazy writers seem to thing that prior to WWII (if you are lucky) women were either mothers or prostitutes. I know that career opportunities have historically been limited for women, but they seriously still did manage to do other things than be burdened by children or have sex with men for money (and no, managing a brothel does not count!). This show actually shows women doing other things! Perhaps a lady detective is a bit of stretch, but in this show women serve as domestic help, women work in factories, women are nurses and physicians, women write for women’s periodicals, women manage companies, women run schools, women manage cocaine smuggling rings, women are performers, women are part of the communist movement, women are pickpockets . . . and that is only about half way through the first season. It is refreshing to see women’s history sneaking onto the screen!
Some other television series that I’ve been enjoying for this reason: Bomb Girls (Canadian), Land Girls (UK), The Hour (UK), Call the Midwife (UK). I don’t mean to imply by this list that there are no American shows that do this, I just watch a lot of British stuff.
If anyone has any suggestions of what to add to this list please let me know!