There’s lots of talk about what should be series five. For many it seems that six episodes of Hal alternately tied to a chair and doing press ups seems to be the answer! Maybe though – and just maybe – we could use a little more plot…
What I want to see is some strong female characters, the lack of which is probably the only consistent complaint I have about Being Human. (That doesn’t include my complaint about all my favourite characters getting killed way too quickly by the way…) Just one will be a start – but what is she like? She can have family and relationships of course but she doesn’t define herself by them. She has her own views, her own morality and stands by it. She’s capable, intelligent and independent. Not much to ask in the twenty first century, surely?
What have we seen so far – is there anyone who qualifies?
Annie was… well, Annie was Annie. She had her strong moments, about one per series, and her utterly annoying moments but Annie’s inconsistency was consistent. Dying in an abusive relationship, she repeated that pattern throughout. She let Mitchell bully her, she let Kirby drive away her friends, and she bent with the wind. Much as I wanted to slap her on occasions it was just what she was – and Lenora played it perfectly in character throughout.
Nina initially looked to be strong but that spikiness actually hid vulnerability – and more abuse. She was strong in her moral beliefs and that totally black or white view got her and the others into all kinds of trouble. I’m not sure I see that as real strength – dealing with all those shades of grey are what real life is all about.
Josie redeemed the lot of women in the first series and has to be one of the best female characters in Being Human. Clear eyed, realistic and compassionate, funny and resolutely lacking in self pity. She was determined to resist Herrick’s magic spells and saw through the flowery prose and the unmissable opportunity instantly, in a way that so few ever did. She made the classic good end in healing the man she thought would save mankind. Josie was a star and was wonderfully played by Clare Higgins. Even I sniffed a bit. Yes I know, unheard of!
Series two made a decent start with Daisy. Strong minded, determined and amoral but always guided by Ivan. I liked Daisy and I think that not having her and Ivan together in more than one episode was a mistake. She proved to be Mitchell’s saving and his downfall – how much of the Box Tunnel incident was actually her idea? Why did she push him in the direction he took in leading the vampires? I have a feeling that she was more of a leader than we saw. Even McNair said she was a fighter.
I’m not sure how we were intended to see Daisy. Maybe as pure evil – she abandoned her child and then tried to kill the woman that child became. She screwed George as her husband watched – did she know he was there? Of course she did… She goaded Mitchell into taking his ultimately untenable position with the vampires and of course it was Daisy and Cara who raised Herrick. Listing all that it’s interesting that she was so popular! In a very unscientific poll amongst a group at a BH gathering Daisy was one of only two S1-3 characters that everyone agreed they liked. (The other was Herrick, in case you are wondering)
And then there was Lucy. Professor Jaggat. Committed Christian, committed scientist. Prepared to do whatever it takes to prove her hypothesis, including playing Mitchell like a prize fish and blowing up a nest of vampires. Lovely. Of course when it came to the crunch she did have a wobble or two – weeping on Kemp after she’d a fiddle with Mitchell and wanting forgiveness at the end. Did she know what he’d done? Maybe, maybe not but she had no illusions left and whether she still believed in evil or not by the time she died, well, I’m not sure. She wasn’t popular – mostly I suspect as Mitchell’s potential nemesis – but I admit that I did like her.
Series three started with Lia, although how to categorise her?! She was human but she’s dead. She’s passed over so not a ghost. Just what is she? I was so sure she was one of the PTB – maybe a gatekeeper, maybe more and she certainly seemed to have the knowledge, authority and guts to get a lot done. She could show Mitchell his demons and release Annie. She also set up the train of events with the prophecy that drove Mitchell to his own end.
Seeing her as a bitter young women wanting revenge as she ended up spoiled that set up. I wanted more than that! I still can’t make it gel with what she was able to do. Even putting some – frankly awful – poetry in the mouth of a handy dead copper showed she could do so much more than just meddle and sulk.
Honourable series three mentions for Emma and Nancy. Emma was certainly the power behind the throne of her and Richard’s relationship and she got away when he was turned into vampire jam. I’m sure she’s happily up to no good somewhere else… Nancy was reasonably good at her job, extraordinarily determined to prove herself and pretty obviously undermined by all around her. Maybe fewer pens and pencils in the hair would help? She was beyond annoying but damn the girl had nerve! She stuck with it to the end despite everything Cooper threw at her. If Herrick had turned her I wonder what sort of vampire she’d have made.
We had a few more cookie cutter types in series four and although Golda made me laugh she was shallowly drawn. It was simply the fault of her having to be in, make a point and die, nothing else. I’d have liked her to have been around a bit longer with her eighties power suits and attitude. Loved the way she kept Kane and what’s-his-name as pets! A woman after my own heart…
We have a new ghost by the end of series four. Alex is spiky, sarky and Scottish and sadly for her, dressed like a girl. She seems fearless and independent but again has been largely defined so far by her relationships. It seems that she’s been bringing up her younger brothers (and her dad…) and from what she’s said they seem a pretty dumb bunch. We meet her when she chats up Hal and manages to get through his imbecilic avoidance behaviour and some slimy chatting up before falling foul of Cutler. As far as dates go it wasn’t one of the best… I like her so far but please let’s not have her unfinished business to be a happy ever after or finding her mum, that’s all a bit too obvious. Annie’s UB turned out to be saving the world and that’s set the bar pretty high!
Sadly the BH women do fall into some stereotypical groups – protective/neglectful mother, abused wife, hard faced professional. Can you find one that wasn’t largely defined by the man or men in her life? I can only think of Wendy the social worker in series three. Many of the male characters are also guilty of inhabiting equally easily defined groups but there are so many of them it’s dilutes the effect. Maybe we could have more female writers?
Which reminds me – I do want to give huge thanks here to Sarah Phelps who wrote “The Longest Day”, probably my favourite episode. She brought out the women’s voices in a way that no other episode really sustained. Annie was determined and defiant; she had the measure of Herrick. Nina – although cruel – showed an ability to see beyond the black and white, however briefly, and even Cara found a new eloquence and sadness. Wendy was a triumph – I understand the part was written for Nicola Walker and she played it to perfection.
I think my top three strong BH women (and I reserve the right to change my mind later…) would have to be Daisy and Lucy with all their contradictions and weaknesses. Are they actually strong characters? Yes they probably are, although nowhere near as strong as they could have been. Top of the lot though has to be the older Josie – now that’s a quiet strength that I can only envy.
A seriously 1970s video of Helen Reddy singing “I am Woman” but the words are still well worth listening to, even almost 40 years later…