This essay considers the role that Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake (BBC/SundanceTV, 2013) and Top of the Lake: China Girl (BBC/SundanceTV, 2017) play in the post-network television landscape. Situating the series among the globalized genre of serialized post-network crime shows that feature female detectives, this essay argues that Campion reworks the genre’s fascination with victimized women from her auteurist and Antipodean perspective. While the characterization and actions of the female detective resonate with other programs’ protagonists, Campion challenges dominant discourses of victimized women by intervening in the global circulation of women’s bodies on television. By drawing on Zoë Sofia’s work on female bodies and container technologies, this essay argues that Campion’s use of pregnant victims and her exploration of a female detective’s history as a survivor of sexual assault allow her to interrogate the typical treatment of female corpses within crime television. Through circuitous investigations that leave enough narrative space for detours like the settling of Paradise, where women transform shipping containers into domestic spaces for struggling women, Campion provides a countermodel to crime television focused on forensic progress through a case. Campion similarly takes the container of serialized crime drama that circulates the globe in a post-network television landscape and creates space for women’s stories from the Antipodes. Pausing the narrative to indict the treatment of female victims, Campion also unearths the melodramatic underpinnings of serialized crime dramas that resonate with her own filmography.
Research Article|September 01 2019
Alison Wielgus; “The Harder I Swim, the Faster I Sink”: Top of the Lake’s Female Detective in the Global Television Economy. Camera Obscura 1 September 2019; 34 (2): 71–101. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-7584916
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