Hard acts to follow: ballsy TV heroines keep on coming

Chloë Sevigny is the latest actress to square up to a masculine role

In his book The Essential Difference, Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University professor of developmental psychopathology, wrote that "the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy". Not on TV drama, they aren't – or not any longer.

The modern television heroine is increasingly likely to act like an anti-social, obsessive male. Or as Danish actress Sofie Grabol famously said to the writers of The Killing when they tried giving her workaholic detective Sarah Lund a love life: "I am Clint Eastwood... he doesn't have a girlfriend."

After Lund, there was the self-medicating bi-polar CIA agent Carrie Mathison in Homeland, picking up men in bars for functional sex, a trait shared with Swedish policewoman Saga Noren in The Bridge, a seemingly undiagnosed case of Asperger's syndrome.

It's a trend that is taken to its logical conclusion in Sky Atlantic's first homegrown drama, Hit & Miss (written by Shameless creator Paul Abbott), in which Chloë Sevigny's Mia is both a sociopath and the owner (albeit reluctantly) of a penis. Mia is a transsexual saving up for her gender-changing operation by professionally murdering people to order, her clinically ruthless day job suddenly messed up by the discovery that she has fathered a ten-year-old boy.

Hit & Miss is an unusual concoction – La Femme Nikita meets Shameless, you could say – which perhaps reflects the inspired/random way in which it was created. "I had two concepts that I had been working on and that I fitted together," says Abbott, "the domestic story of a transsexual and a separate drama about a hit man. Singly they didn't add up to a five-course meal, but put together..."

One of the chief delights of Hit & Miss is watching Mia deal with big bullying men who think she is easy prey. It's a fantasy of female empowerment, although one, as with all of these anti-social heroines, created by men. And in the case of Saga in The Bridge, like God forming Eve out of Adam's rib, woman was created to complement her male colleague, Martin.

"We started out with Martin first," says Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of The Bridge. "We wanted to get away from a Swedish cliché of what middle-aged male police officers are like... We put more female characteristics on him."

It was Saga, Martin's Swedish partner, who was given what might be called the male traits – although you don't have to be a feminist to ask why, for a woman to be single-minded and very good at her job, she has to be somewhere on the autistic spectrum. "We didn't diagnose Saga," says Rosenfeldt. "But then when we aired the show it turned out that we'd created an Asperger's personality. There are a lot dysfunctional female police officers right now. I guess it's something in the air."

These driven, complicated women are forever being told to go home/take a holiday/get off the case – and they equally invariably ignore this advice. Sofia Helin is brilliant in The Bridge, while Claire Danes justly won a Golden Globe for Homeland and Chloë Sevigny brings her characteristic fearlessness to Hit & Miss. They are part of a wider evolution of female characters that really got going with Edie Falco's pill-popping anti-heroine in Nurse Jackie and Mary-Louise Parker's pot-dealing Nancy in Weeds.

Abbott thinks that the boom in dark, complex heroines stems from writers being inspired by watching other writers expand the horizons for their leading female characters. "Every time you see one work as special as The Killing, it inspires other writers to be more confident with outspoken female roles," he says. Expect more of the same, in other words, and hooray for that.

'Hit & Miss' begins tonight at 10pm on Sky Atlantic

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker