On March 16, 2011 our class viewed a television show called Policewoman that aired in 1974 starring Angie Dickinson as a female cop. Dickinson’s character, Sgt. “Pepper” Anderson, is a sexy undercover agent with amplified hair for the Los Angeles Police Department. “In Policewoman, the barrier against women having the title role in a cop show was broken”(Douglas 209). The opening scene for the episode, “The Beautiful Die Young” combines a series of shots of Pepper’s legs, hair, breasts, and episode specific voiceovers asking, “Have you ever seen a porno?” Even from the opening scene, I knew this television episode would have the most sexual overtones of all the shows we have watched thus far.
This episode investigates Ted Adrian’s business, Classic Modeling Agency. Adrian sex trafficks young girls overseas or makes them into porn stars. Bonnie June, a young girl, is swayed into Adrian’s scam because she truthfully wants to pursue a modeling career. Within ten minutes of meeting Adrian, he asks her if she’d like do be in a porno film. Bonnie June, age fifteen, responds by seductively biting her lip. Later on, Adrian remarks, “Speaking of legs, I’d like to see yours.” The body language and dialogue between Adrian and the young girl are unbearably awkward to watch.
Meanwhile, Pepper and Crowley visit the Police Academy to find a woman to go undercover and pose as a young model to get close to Adrian’s business. The Police Academy appeared to have equal amounts of men and women enrolled and working alongside men. However, this equation does not hold true at Pepper’s police station; she is the only “lady cop.” The scantily clad undercover cop even makes a reference to feeling “like a piece of meat.” This comment links to Jamie’s remark from the show Bionic Woman when she says “I feel like a side of beef” before the swimsuit competition.
Pepper also goes undercover to speak with Rex, a stereotypical black “player,” that is also involved in Adrian’s business. “The gorgeous, blond, and husky-voiced Pepper’s main job as a cop was to go undercover as a prostitute, stripper, gangster’s moll, or aspiring porno queen to set the black widow’s trap. But she wasn’t the predator, she was the prey”(Douglas 210). During Pepper’s sexually riddled talk with Rex the camera shot is conveniently centered on her breasts. The obvious camera placement on Pepper’s breasts is laughable by today’s standards. The sexual references in Policewoman are certainly not discreet.
While Bonnie June is at Adrian’s house he offers her drugs. Bonnie suggests, “How about some weed or hash?” but Adrian ups the ante and responds, “Nah, that’s kid stuff, how about something stronger, cocaine.” Bonnie ends up dying at Adrian’s home from a cocaine overdose and Adrian attempts to cover up the death and hides her body.
In the end, Pepper sneaks into Adrian’s home and attempts to find Bonnie’s body but Adrian catches her and as customary ties her up. It truly did not even seem like she fought back, it seemed like she simply regressed back to an obedient woman and accepted whatever he planned to do with her. “So the audience got to fantasize briefly about a woman who dared to do a “man’s job” getting her just deserts…Pepper was invariably found out by the bad guys and always had to be rescued by the white, male cavalry, the real cops”(Douglas 210). So, of course the episode ends with Pepper as a damsel in distress waiting for two men to come and save her.
This is the first time we have viewed a television show that has references to hard drugs, sex, nudity, rape, and pornography. As a viewer, I cringed and wanted to shout at the television!…Adrian knowingly plans to sell a fifteen year old girl, blatantly flirts with her, anticipates having sex with her, provides her with cocaine, and then kills her. Although Policewoman has a strong female lead, there is nothing inspiring about her position in society. The only true power she has is in utilizing her sex appeal. While we move forward by featuring lead females, we bring it back to falsely respecting women in hopes of “scoring” with them.