Longmire was a TV series that ran for six seasons – partially on cable and with the last seasons on Netflix. It has been finished for a few years now but the husband and I just watched it on Netflix.
The story is about the sheriff of fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming, Walt Longmire. He has a small staff of deputies and they are responsible for investigating crimes in a large county. Their territory is next to the Cheyenne reservation, which has its own law enforcement and laws.
I thought that the series did a fairly good job of discussing the conflicts between white people and Cheyenne characters. Articles that I’ve read about the accuracy of the depictions have been positive. Most of the Cheyenne recurring characters were men and not all were played by Native Americans, let alone Cheyenne actors, which are entirely other issues.
My issue comes with something I can talk about – the depiction of white women in this series.
There were two main white female characters.
Cady Longmire is the daughter of the sheriff. Let me be specific. She is the grown-up, adult daughter of the sheriff. She has gone to college and law school and graduated from both. This is important to know because if you just went based off the main character’s actions you would assume that his daughter was a toddler.
In the first season, you find out that Walt Longmire’s wife had cancer and she recently died. However, she didn’t die of the cancer. She was murdered. You also find out that he did not ever share this information with his daughter. He let her believe that her mother died of cancer. Now, this is a difficult thing to pull off because she knows that her mother was just recently diagnosed at the time of her death. She appeared to be responding well to treatment. When Cady starts investigating to see what the doctors had to say about her mother’s sudden death, she finds out that her father had been lying to her.
He justifies this by saying that he didn’t want her to be upset. This is a pattern on this show. Women are depicted as too delicate to be told the truth about most things. They need to be protected at all times. Male characters can’t seem to learn that not giving women information that they need can endanger them, let alone really piss them off.
This brings us to Vic.
Vic Moretti was a cop in Philadelphia before she became a whistleblower. She was run out of the police force there and now is working as a deputy. Her role seems to be mainly as a person for the sheriff to explain things to. You can get whiplash with this. One second she’s finding clues and being a competent policeperson and the next she’s cooing, “I don’t understand” so the men can explain what is going on.
Both female characters are shown to be very capable on their own. It just goes bad when they have to interact with men. (Isn’t it always the case?) Repeatedly they are left out of decision-making. Over and over the men around them decide that they will hire protection to watch over them without telling them that they may be in danger and letting them make their own decisions about their safety. The characters are not allowed to have any agency over their choices – unless it is a “bad” choice.
I spent a lot of time watching the series yelling things like, “She’s not a F@#%ing infant!” and “F%$#% the patriarchy!” at the TV. As a murder-mystery/police drama it is a good show. I just wish we were beyond the place where these depictions of women were still seen.
I’m sure it won’t surprise you to find out that each of them is given a love interest in the last episode of the series. There is also a parting shot where Walt informs Cady of what he thinks she should do with her life – hint – it isn’t anything she is remotely qualified to do but he wants it so she should jump when he says so. I may still be bitter about how horrible he is to her.
Notice I haven’t mentioned Native American women. There are no Native female characters that get more than a few episodes. Some of them are well done and have important points to make but there definitely should have been more stories with female Native leads.