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.