Screen roles for women

THERE are few better characters to grace our TV screens than DI Denton.

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I'm talking about Keeley Hawes' portrayal of downbeat cop Lyndsay Denton, who became embroiled in a gripping police corruption investigation in the Line of Duty.

The series ended last week, and Hawes' performance was a game-changer. It is rare that you can both sympathise with a character and distrust them, proving her outstanding ability as an actress.

But, apart from discouraging anyone from getting a fringe - Denton's trademark is a greasy barnet - she has also helped fuel a revolution quietly bubbling into our culture.

It's no coincidence that the best productions on TV and films have featured females at the centre of storylines. Barely a scene went by in Line of Duty where Denton was not giving us her best scowl.

And her co-star, Vicky McClure as DC Kate Fleming, proved again that complex female characters deserve to be at the forefront.

If it's not that detective series, it's another: Danish show The Killing, which arguably helped kickstart the move with Fairisle knit-wearing Sarah Lund, played by Sofie Gråbøl.

Or there's Sidse Babett Knudsen as the Prime Minister in Borgen or, back on our shores, how about the magnificent Maxine Peake in Silk?

THEN, in the US, there's the comedy Girls, created by and starring Lena Dunham, who has said the entertainment industry is a "rough scene" for females.

And, of course, she's right. It's not that women have never appeared in TV or films, it's just that now we are seeing it more than ever. But it's not enough.

A new report has found that last year women were under-represented, despite female-led big budget films such as Hunger Games 2, starring Jennifer Lawrence, and, Gravity, with Sandra Bullock.

Only 13% of last year's top 100 films had equal numbers of major female and male characters, or more major females than males, according to the Study of Women in Television and Film.

There was a time when women were invisible on screen except to play wives or girlfriends, or another stereotypical character.

Take the 1971 thriller Get Carter. I know, we can never forgive Michael Caine for coming out as a Tory, but his turn as ruthless Jack Carter in the classic movie is one of his best. But can you think of a female character who didn't take her clothes off?

Even in a pub brawl scene you catch a glimpse of a woman's bloomers - the message being: Don't let women in there in the first place.

But women belong in the pub, the boardroom, the prime ministers office and, yes, even on the telly.

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