Image Credit: Robert FleischauerThe scripted-series prestige that has become the hallmark of pay-cable channels HBO and Showtime has long eluded Cinemax — and its newest project, Femme Fatales, doesn’t seem in any danger of changing that. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cinemax has ordered up the thriller anthology series, which will feature noir-style mysteries and strong female protagonists. Sounds great, right? Hell, it sounds like Veronica Mars! It’s when you learn that it’s based on the men’s magazine of the same name that you start to grow suspicious. (Or hopeful! Could there really be a magazine for men who would like to read in-depth interviews with smart, successful women?) Then you see that it’s exactly what you think, a magazine with your standard scantily clad starlets on the covers. Then you learn that there will be a “strong erotic component” to the series, even though it will also swear it doesn’t have anything to do with that soft-core porn that got everyone calling the network Skinamax for the last million years or so. And then you will still not subscribe to Cinemax.
Of course this show won’t end up bothering me personally, since I don’t plan to ever see it, and I have no problem per se with soft-core porn. (Or, I suppose I should say, that’s just a whole different tangly argument.) I’ll admit I’m using this one little show as an extreme example of a larger issue: the continued insistence in entertainment that empowerment — sexual or otherwise — for women always seems to come down to strutting around in a bra and panties or less. Put a gun in her hand, and suddenly it’s pro-women! I admit, I certainly enjoy Jennifer Garner playing dress-up on Alias or Piper Perabo doing the same on Covert Affairs (she did a version of this in Coyote Ugly, and I love her just the same) as much as the next person. And there’s a nice twist on this theme in The CW’s fun fall remake of Nikita, in which the delicious Melinda Clarke schools a new pretty spylet in using her looks to get what she wants. I get it, I get it: We all must use what we have, and women’s sexuality renders (male) villains powerless. I just wonder if it isn’t time for a kick-ass heroine who doesn’t look like she’s posing for a men’s magazine every week as she takes out bad guys. Or time for a grown-up one — Buffy and Veronica Mars, we miss you.