Fringe – Female Characters and Children

So I know I said I would watch Buffy and start blogging it but I got distracted by Fringe. Now I never watched much of the show when it first premiered but in the last week I’ve torn through the whole first season and the first few episodes of the second and it’s an interesting shows that gives at leas some answers while creating new questions, which I like. But I have one nagging question in regards to FBI Agent, Olivia Dunham.

What in the hell is the point of her sister and niece?

No, really.

They do nothing.

This is not to disparage the actresses at all but to say that the roles themselves are useless in terms of plot  BUT not in terms of gender construction. I have a theory. This all goes back to Agent Dunham (played by Anna Torv) who is an emotionally damaged, waifish young woman with a mystical destiny. Some say Anna Torv is simply not the best actress and is wooden in some spots. While I can see their point in places I overall think this is actually an aspect of the character Olivia Dunham.  Dunham is damaged in so many ways and that is how Torv is playing her, as someone who deep down is sort of wooden, whose happiness is a bit sharp and sudden and fades fairly quickly. That’s a hard thing to play and play well and its an assignment rarely given to women’s characters.

So what’s up with Olivia’s niece, is she just another Cousin Oliver? In a way but not quite.

I think she’s there to make Olivia Dunham more maternal and acceptable to the viewing audience as a female badass. As I said the character of Olivia is broken, messed-up, full of rage, thinks before speaking, and is a prophesied savior, that’s a lot for a character and it’s more to work with than women actors usually get. So I think the niece was put in so that Olivia could interact with her lovingly and therefore reassure the viewing audience that she does have the softer emotions that make her “believable” as a woman.

Audiences have issues with strong female characters or more perhaps honestly executives believe that audiences have issues with strong female characters and one way to mitigate this in their eyes is to show her character in ways that are more traditionally conceived as female spaces/norms. So basically the only time we even see the niece is when Olivia is cuddling with her in bed or refusing to stop reading to her or praising her drawings or any other number of “maternal” actions that are presented to prove that she’s not just a hardcore FBI agent but also a “real” woman. And of course they couldn’t give her a daughter and show a single mom being badass and such (which would’ve actually been really interesting) because that would anger some of the audience with the idea that she could die and leave her child alone. So a niece is perfect, shows her maternal side while also having another support system.

But  like I said it’s just a theory. Who knows once I push farther into the second season the niece and her mother will actually have things to do and become interesting rounded characters?

I somehow doubt it though.

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