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Dead Tree Alert: Antiheroine Chic

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Parker as pot dealer Nancy Botwin in Weeds. Monty Brinton/Showtime

In this week’s TIME, with LA correspondent and Laura Linney doppelganger Rebecca Winters Keegan, I take a look at the bumper crop of lead actress roles on cable for the likes of Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Mary Louise Parker (above), et al.

Now I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking, haven’t I seen an article like this lately? And you might be right, once, or twice, or… oh, stop with the links already! But in this article I focus not on the fact that actresses of a certain age are getting big roles in TV and not movies, but the kinds of roles they’re playing. Namely, they’re taking over the role of Angsty Flawed Protagonist that edgy cable and network shows have heretofore reserved for the menfolk:

Tony Soprano and his followers on HBO, FX and elsewhere showed that audiences would follow villains with sympathetic qualities and heroes with addictive, self-destructive personalities. Move over, good guys and bad guys, these dramas said. Make room for the good-bad guy.

The operative word, however, was guy. Like many revolutions, this one liberated the men first. The shows focused on male antiheroes and their loud, angsty Y-chromosome dramas: Tony, The Shield’s Vic Mackey, Rescue Me’s Tommy Gavin, Dexter’s serial killer Dexter Morgan, Deadwood’s Al Swearengen, 24’s Jack Bauer. These shows made TV more complex and challenging, but their definition of serious drama had a pronounced silverback streak.

All this, plus Minnie Driver imagining doing a dog-food commercial as her crank-addicted character Dahlia from The Riches. Arf!