At this point most sources I have are pointing to “True Detective” season 2 as a dud. Could it have been better if Nic Pizzolatto had branched out from his exploration of misogyny and tired masculine energy? Maybe. But what if that wasn’t the show Pizzolatto wanted to write?
No matter what else you say, Pizzolatto has a certain vision for what he wants his TD world to look like. The overwhelming bleakness; the tweak of a tried-and-true genre. And while women fit into season one largely in a side-character, prop to the men, perhaps women—or really diversity in general—isn’t a part of the world he was looking at.
Are we owed it? It’s uncomfortable to say that a showrunner, writer, or any other sort of head-honcho should feel beholden to what audiences want over what they want to fit in their world. But to say that inherently excuses the sexual assault and whitewashing (for starters) we see on our TV screens ignores the societal context most of these shows are written in; they don’t exist in a vacuum, independently making decisions of all -isms.
Does it matter if the work is intentionally that way? Is that a separate issue if the writer knows they don’t have the understanding of the nuance and care with which to (in returning to the TD example) give its women characters a proper shake?
Ta-Nehisi Coates, who recently released his book “Between the World and Me,” mentioned in an interview with Slate that while he understood the criticism from Shani Hilton (who noted his book didn’t focus on black women) he wasn’t sure where to start to fix that, when speaking from his own experience.
“I don’t know. I love Shani. I adore Shani. She is incredibly unique. But I think when books come out like this and get a great deal of hype, things are put on their shoulders. I am glad about it, but it gets freighted. I understand that it is the male experience and I am a male writing the book. I don’t know how to remedy that,” Coates said.
“True Detective” often casts its eyes—for better or worse—at the ugliest parts of the male psyche. Even if you believe that we’ve had enough of those stories told and there’s nothing new to say (which I somewhat agree with, or at least think TD hasn’t raised the bar yet) it’s hard to demand that if that’s the story Pizzolatto wants and feels qualified to tell audiences can step in and demand the same show but with an entirely different body. If Pizzolatto thinks his story needs to be anchored in his male leads, at what point should viewers be able to limit his voice?
Believe me, I wish “True Detective” was about women. It would be at least 4.7 times as interesting if we just switched all male character to women. And I don’t have the answers about what story Pizzolatto is trying to tell, or if there’s some magical line where they suddenly owe me diversity or not. I also think there’s a long distance between a culture that expects to see honest diversity on television because it understands that there’s no way you cast 14 white people on accident, and a culture that expects its creative people to cater to the demands of the many.
For now all I know is “True Detective” doesn’t do it for me. And I don’t know if it has to.