He Said, She Said. She’s Dead.
Trigger warning for violence, self-harm, and murder.
Podcasts, documentaries, movies, and TV shows on the subject of crime are plentiful, but how do they measure up to reality? The show Castle is about mystery novelist Rick Castle shadowing NYPD Detective Kate Beckett to get writing inspiration for a new novel. What can we learn from watching crime shows like this? Castle reveals that there are quite a few instances of gender affecting the treatment of suspects for similar crimes.
Season 1 Episode 2, Nanny McDead.
A nanny named Sara was murdered in the building where she worked. The coroner discovered that a blow to the head killed her and that she had sex before she was killed, which leads Beckett and Castle to automatically assume that it’s a male perpetrator. As they untangle a web of lies, affairs, jealousy, and deceit, they tend to be more aggressive and accusatory while interviewing male suspects. When questioning two women of interest they used softer tones, and for Chloe – Sara’s friend and a fellow nanny – they dismissed her suspicious behavior as grief. When they finally suspect Chloe, she has attacked her boss for sleeping with both her and Sara, and she’s harming herself with a knife. Beckett goes in with her gun pointed at her, but quickly puts it down and switches to a soft tone again, gently trying to talk her down and offering her help. When Chloe puts her knife down, Beckett doesn’t run to arrest her, but instead puts her arm around her and tells her it will be ok. Castle later tells Beckett he liked her “sisterhood approach” and Beckett says she wasn’t doing “sisterhood”, she just understood that the boss sleeping with Chloe and Sara was the root cause of these issues.
Season 2 Episode 3, Inventing the Girl.
A different approach is taken when a model, Jenna, was found murdered from being stabbed in the back. As Beckett and Castle dig deeper into this mystery, the first suspects are men again, most notably a possible stalker whom Jenna had reported to NYPD multiple times, but the police dismissed her and said it was just a fan and she should expect this in her line of work. Similar to the other episode this is also a tangled web of lies, jealousy, and deceit, but when it comes to the affair part, it turns out that Jenny was not unfaithful. Unfortunately for Jenny, her husband did not believe her faithfulness. As the puzzle is pieced together Beckett and Castle suspect a male photographer and interrogate harshly, but ultimately they learn it was probably her husband Travis. They lead him to believe that they have a recording of him murdering her, and pressure him into telling them the story instead of playing the recording. When he does confess, there is some sympathy but mainly guilt trips.
In No Uncertain Terms
Both victims were women that were caught up in messy situations, but the gendered aspects of how their murderers were treated differently are noticeable. Chloe wasn’t even suspected until the end and was treated gently all the way through her arrest. Travis was interviewed aggressively when he became the prime suspect, but unlike Chloe, they did not try to console him for murdering his wife. In both cases manipulation is used, but in Chloe’s case it was to talk her down, while in Travis’ situation, it was used to get a confession. After the confessions, Chloe is painted as a victim herself while Travis becomes the controlling and sad guy who murdered his wife under false pretenses.
So where does this leave us? At least for Castle, men and women perpetrators are treated differently even when the circumstances of the murders are similar.