Props to Castle!

Beckett3
In my post The Investigative Methods of Kate Beckett, I discussed the distressing fact that the TV show Castle was increasingly emphasizing NYPD detective Kate Beckett’s beauty over her brains.  Actress Stana Katic is all kinds of beautiful, but I didn’t want to see the show present her as a woman willing to use her body to get answers—a tactic which is both unprofessional and unnecessary, since Kate is also all kinds of insightful.  Well, my friends, guess what?  In the October 3, 2011 episode of Castle, “Head Case,” Kate faces off against a porn mogul and doesn’t play into his slimy hands for one second.  This scene—and the interaction between Kate and her sidekick, Richard Castle—brought me such joy that I just had to write about it.

Kate and Castle are on their way to see the porn mogul (Beau Randolph, who runs a show called College Girls Gone Crazy) because he is a suspect in the murder they’re investigating.  As they are walking together through Randolph’s studio, scantily-clad young women weaving around them, they are discussing the case at hand.  The murder victim was researching pharmaceutical implants that could extend human life by a decade, and Randolph was funding the research.  Castle asks Kate, “Would you do it? Would you get the implants?”

And here is where Kate delivers a line that I couldn’t believe I was hearing.   She glances at her chest, gives a sly smile, and says, “I don’t think I need ‘em, huh?”

This line is just the lead-in to the scene with the porn mogul, but I’d like to linger here because I think it is worthy of praise on many levels.  First of all, Kate’s blouse shows a hint of cleavage, but she isn’t wearing anything tight or revealing—her breasts aren’t on display for the audience’s approval or disapproval.  She’s wearing a scoop-neck shirt and a long jacket—she looks feminine and comfortable in her own skin.  Secondly, Kate is the one who makes the joke and looks at her own body—not Castle.  She is making the reference a little flirtatiously—Castle is her friend, a possible future lover, and someone who knows her quite well.  She’s relaxed with him, and he with her.  He laughs self-consciously, doesn’t comment on Kate’s innuendo, and resumes the conversation.  This brief exchange has the feel of a real conversation between a man and a woman, friends who are attracted to one another and function as colleagues.   And, my favorite part of all:  the line itself.  When Kate delivers this line, she and Castle are surrounded by the young women in Randolph’s videos, most of whom have large breasts and skimpy tops.  For Kate to look at her own body and affirm that her breasts are just fine is to say that she isn’t intimidated by the bodies around her—she feels no need to emulate them, no need to disparage herself.  That is an empowering message.  And it gets better.

After they’ve spoken to an assistant and are waiting to see Randolph, Castle comments, “Someone needs to get these girls clothes made of actual fabric.”

“Since when did you become so judgmental about practically naked women?” Kate asks.

“Since my daughter hit college age,” says Castle.  And that seems about right—it is time for Castle to start seeing the young women around him as so young that they could be his daughter.  Because they are.

When Randolph arrives, he gives Kate a long, slow once-over and asks her if she’s sure she’s not there to audition for one of his series.  And Kate’s response—all of it—strikes the perfect tone for how she should be dealing with this man whom the victim’s wife has described as “distasteful.”  Kate looks him in the eye and says, “No,” in a tone that carries an implied (but unspoken) “you idiot.”  The rest of her dealings with him are spot-on for a professional cop—she brings him in for questioning and does her job efficiently and well.

For all of this—the line in which Kate affectionately references her own breasts, Castle’s mature reaction to a roomful of scantily-clad coeds, and Kate’s no-nonsense demeanor with a man who would demean her—I give props to Castle!  This episode was a joy to watch as a female fan—not only because the writers and producers are making empowering choices for Kate, but also because this episode represents a reversal.  The show was heading in the direction of so many others, in which female bodies are ubiquitous and expendable and the women who own them are only too happy to use them for any purpose.  But the way this episode handled both Kate and her interaction with a representative of the porn industry made me proud to be a Castle fan.  I hope there are more episodes like this one in the future, and that Kate continues to grow as a model of female empowerment.

13 thoughts on “Props to Castle!

  1. Brooke Soderholm says:

    I liked that episode too and was also impressed and pleased with Kate and Castle’s mature, confident, and sarcastic reactions. Good post!

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    • Joy says:

      I loved that scene! I didn’t think the older scenes referred to were horrible: the Russian mob thing was a spur-of-the-moment choice and the second season was an undercover sting. I liked that Kate wasn’t afraid of using that aspect of herself, that she was comfortable and confident enough to take those actions. In THIS scene, the guy is trying to control a sitation by attempting to take ownership of Beckett’s body. Much in the way guys will harrass an attractive woman on the street. She wasn’t having it. Came in with full authority as a cop. In the two other cases if she’d tried to go in as a cop she’d have gotten nowhere. I didn’t have issues with it because she was making concious choices in order to obtain definitresults as opposed to giving away her power. I also think those scenes showed a woman comfortable with her body and sexuality, as did the this current scene, but in a different way. So, while I agreed with your take on this current scene, I disagree with the overall idea that Beckett has been protrayed as feeling she had to use her body to get answers. Sting operations are done all the time.

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      • Elizabeth Hall Magill says:

        Thanks for commenting, Joy. I certainly see your point about a woman being comfortable with her body, and with her sexuality. But I think the scenes I discussed in my previous blog weren’t empowering to Kate, or to women overall, for a couple of reasons.

        First, no matter how comfortable a woman is with her body or her sexuality, she shouldn’t need to use her sexuality to get the job done. Kate is a good cop, and she can solve a case without having to play to a man’s desire or using her body to get what she wants. (At least not as blatantly as she did in this show; both men and women, on TV and in life, are known to flirt a little to get results. But this was different–in the pool scene, Kate might as well have been in a music video, not preparing to question a suspect.) While sexual power–and desire–are a part of being and feeling like a powerful person, they are not where women need to come from in terms of empowerment. We need to be comfortable with our bodies and our sexuality, draw on that power as a full part of ourselves, but solve our professional problems with our minds.

        Secondly, this is television–and the show was playing to a male audience who wanted to see more of Kate’s body, not to a female audience who wanted to watch an empowered woman at work. There is nothing wrong with men enjoying the female body, but when we create television that capitalizes on that desire to the exclusion of all else, we diminish both men and women. As I said in my first blog about this show, I can’t imagine a male cop using his body to solve a case–on TV or anywhere else. When Castle or Ryan or Esposito dons a Speedo, and female viewers everywhere watch in riveted fascination as this man draws on his sense of sexual empowerment to solve a problem rather than his astute mind, then we might be getting somewhere in terms of sexual equality on TV. But that’s not where I want to see this show go–I’d rather see Kate do what she did in this episode–use her mind rather than her body.

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  2. Joy says:

    While I think sting operations might very well have an agent do what Kate did, I see your point about the audience factor and why certain choices made could be catering to that. The handsome male TV cop isn’t so blantant in using his hot body for getting information – usually it’s just him being “charming,”

    In terms of where the show is going I completely agree. Both characters have been maturing in their attitudes and behavior. I like the overall progression, and loved the particular scene being discusssed because of all the implications you’ve pointed out. The idea of growth and change seems to be happening across the board on Castle. So often a show tries to keep the characters in the same emotional and mental place – like in a sitcom. It’s great to have a show that has such clear lines of character development: Castle and Beckett are growing up.

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  3. Tallulah says:

    Nicely said! This always happens with me – sexualisation of women in places hardly bothers me (unless it’s so obviously untastefully done) until it’s pointed out and then I’m like ughh…yeah…. But it’s only been three times, and it’s still just a fun show. If it happens again, it’ll probably be going too far.

    I too enjoy how this show is maturing and relationships are changing. A lot of people don’t seem to like it; but they’re the people who watch it just for fun and don’t see or appreciate the clever story telling going on at the same time.

    I’d also like to point out Castle in this scene – imagine, if this was an episode in season 1, he’d be like a kid in a candy store, but he’s grown up. In this situation, it’s due to him seeing Alexis in these girls, but also his relationship with Kate has changed him.

    Just awesomeness all around 😀

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    • Elizabeth Hall Magill says:

      Thanks for pointing out Castle’s role, Tallulah–you are absolutely right, he would’ve been like a kid in a candy store! I am hoping that now that he’s professed his love for Kate, we’ll see him reign in his impulses a bit. Of course he’s still going to notice an attractive woman, as Kate would (and should) notice an attractive man, and I think it’s absolutely spot on to allow both characters to be attracted to–well, anyone who’s attractive. But Kate has always handled her attractions with subtle cues rather than obvious ones–it would be nice to see Castle do the same!

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  4. Juergen Liebenstein says:

    So when you prefer the emphasizing of her smartness over her look, the question stays, what is with her scar. I mean in Rise they opened her chest far enough to give a direct massage to her heart with both hands. You show exactly that picture of the episode, where a long scar should be there. Have I missed something or have the makers missed something and with that placed beauty over reality ?

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    • Elizabeth Hall Magill says:

      This is an excellent question, and one I hadn’t considered. I remember a moment in this episode where Kate reacts to pain from the surgery. I will be very interested to see how they handle the scar, and how Kate feels about it. It makes sense that she would feel shy, maybe embarrassed, and very private about it. But it would also be interesting to see her come to own and accept it over time–an outer scar that bears witness to her inner scars.

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  5. Joy says:

    FYI, This is a Tweet from the show writer & producer Terri Miller:
    ” @TerriEdda: Re: The scar from Beckett’s surgery. It’s there. It’s below her collar line on the tops she’s wearing. It wasn’t ignored or glossed over.”

    So, they haven’t dropped it. I’m sure it will be dealt with later.

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