Tara Block gives us a list of the best beauty, brains, and mystery in entertainment.
In the mood for a good crime drama? Or some fun-loving, but smart whodunits? TrèsSugar brings us a list of the sexiest, but smartest ladies tackling mysteries in television, movies, and in books today.
I’m a huge crime drama junkie, so my TiVo is always filled with the murder mysteries and courtroom dramas that are aplenty on TV these days. And I’m especially happy to see so many women in the leading roles, since I grew up reading and watching smart, tough female detectives like Nancy Drew, Miss Marple, and Jessica Fletcher. This Fall TV season, there’s a new lady to add to the bunch, Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick, Dr. Joan Watson (played by Lucy Liu), on Elementary. The new show debuts tonight, and we’re excited to see a female version of the iconic detective doc!
These women prove that having brains can be sexy—no push-up bra required. So let’s take a look back at the crime-solving characters who’ve paved the way for today’s female detectives, and see what makes them all—the old and the new—great role models.
Dr. Joan Watson
In the new Sherlock Holmes-inspired show,Elementary, Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is a former surgeon hired by Sherlock’s father to be his sober sponsor after he leaves rehab. While Joan is helping Sherlock recover from his addiction, she also assists him as he solve crimes for the NYPD. We’re excited to learn more about Joan (and witness the sexual tension between the partners) as the inaugural season progresses.
In the British crime show Prime Suspect, Helen Mirren plays tough-as-nails British Detective Chief Inspector (later Detective Superintendent) Jane Tennison. Jane is one tough cookie, making her way to the top in a misogynistic, male-dominated profession. But there’s more than meets the eye—throughout the series, we also see her kindness and her weaknesses, as she must battle some inner demons in her personal life as well.
She was a retired English teacher and a widow, but senior citizenship didn’t hold back mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, and we all loved her for her mad sleuthing skills.
As the child of her mother’s rape and eventually a victim of sexual assault herself, Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has a dark past and emotional issues that help, not hinder, her ability to catch the bad guys.
Determined Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson is a tough cookie with unorthodox methods in The Closer. She heads the Major Crimes Division of the LAPD and manages to get the job done, no matter what it takes.
Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan
Star of the TV show Bones, Dr. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist and crime writer based on Kathy Reichs, a real-life forensic anthropologist and crime novelist whose series’ heroine is none other than Dr. Temperance Brennan. It sounds more confusing than it is. The point is, Bones isn’t afraid to march to her own beat, even when it can be off-putting, and use her high intelligence to solve the crimes.
On CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Catherine is one of the most experienced forensic scientists of the gang and manages to balance being a CSI supervisor with being a single mom. Under her tough exterior, she’s a caring and devoted friend and mom.
Detective Alexandra Eames is the perfect patient yet steadfast foil to her eccentric partner, Detective Robert Goren, on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. She allows him to solve the crimes in his own way while keeping him in check when he loses control.
Jill Munroe, Sabrina Duncan, and Kelly Garrett
The original kick-ass trio on the 1970s classic TV show Charlie’s Angels was played by Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith. After graduating from the LA police academy, Jill, Sabrina, and Kelly weren’t happy with their second-rate positions as switchboard handlers and traffic directors. Under Charlie’s guidance, they found a much better fit for their talents as private investigators with a flair for kicking ass and wearing costumes.
Not your average crime solver, to be sure, Lisbeth Salander of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy is a silent but deadly bisexual hacker (with a photographic memory to boot), who emerges from a traumatic childhood as a fearless and good-at-her-core heroine.
While being young and female, Nancy Drew can solve a crime with the best of them and has endured the test of time as her character has evolved since its introduction in 1930. She’s starred in numerous novels penned by various ghost writers since then, but the strong-willed teen detective we are most accustomed to is the heroine of the ’60s and ’70s novels.
Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli
Even though Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles of the TV show Rizzoli & Isles come from different backgrounds and have little in common, the pair are best friends and make a great sleuthing team. They show that two women don’t have to have the same interests to appreciate each other’s strengths.
Daphne Blake and Velma Dinkley
Beginning in the ’70s, the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! follows a group of teenage detectives hunting for clues to solve a supernatural mystery that ends up being explained by the unmasking of a costumed evildoer.
While Daphne started out as the damsel in the distress of the show, she has progressed over the years and developed into a successful journalist with a black belt in martial arts. But I’ve always preferred glasses-wearing brainiac Velma, who despite her dowdy appearance, is usually the one to solve the mystery.
FBI student Clarice Starling must overcome her fears when she is assigned to interview psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the Thomas Harris novel and film adaption The Silence of the Lambs. As the star of this story and the sequel, Hannibal, Clarice is a smart, strong woman in a man’s world, who must struggle with the consequences of her actions and defend her reputation.
High school outcast Veronica is the title character of TV show Veronica Mars. She works for her father in his private investigation business and overcomes several tragedies early on, including the murder of her best friend and the sheriff’s dismissal of her rape.
FBI Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully, M.D., ofThe X-Files is partners with Special Agent Fox Mulder as they attempt to solve unsolved cases dealing with the paranormal. She must wrestle with her Catholic faith and her science-based skepticism of paranormal activity in her work as a forensic pathologist for the FBI.
Another elderly detective, Miss Marple is the sharp, mystery-solving star of numerous Agatha Christie crime novels and short stories, and was played by Margaret Rutherford (seen here) in several ’60s films and by Joan Hickson in a BBC series.
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