Crime drama procedurals have been TV staples since Law & Order premiered in 1990. For years, audiences have been fascinated by watching detectives solve “heinous crimes” and track down “the worst offenders” to bring justice to victims. Durkheim’s conscience collective was used as a foundation for examining the genre of crime dramas. My research sampled episodes from Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Blue Bloods, The Closer, and Rizzoli & Isles to examine trends in the representation of women and People of Color. The Closer had the highest percentage of People of Color on average and the highest in any one episode with 73%. While the other shows varied, Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU had similar percentages of People of Color on average, 25% and 21% respectively. Women of Color were very underrepresented with Law & Order’s 12% being the highest percent across the shows. While Law & Order: SVU had a higher percent of women on average, 40, because they were primarily portrayed as the victims. Lastly, I compared my data to U.S. population data to see how realistic the representation is. While 40% is a high, according to the 2010 U.S. census, women make up 50.8% of the population. This investigation into crime shows’ presentation of women and People of Color is critical because media can send subliminally racist or sexist messages to audiences. Using Critical Race Theory, Becker’s Labeling Theory, Social Role and Role Congruity Theory, I argue that the representations of women and People of Color in these shows can be very damaging. Women are often the victims and rarely shown in positions of power. People of Color are routinely portrayed in stereotypical roles. Modern day racism manifests in People of Color being connected with crime. Ultimately, this is a call for audiences to be critical of what they watch and for the Hollywood and TV industries to be more representative of a changing society.


Kardulias, Nick


Sociology and Anthropology


Broadcast and Video Studies | Criminal Procedure | Criminology | Gender and Sexuality | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Inequality and Stratification | Law and Gender | Law and Psychology | Law and Race | Law and Society | Mass Communication | Race and Ethnicity | Social Psychology | Sociology of Culture | Television


crime show, crime drama procedural, Durkheim’s conscience collective, Critical Race Theory, Becker’s Labeling Theory, Social Role and Role Congruity Theory, Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Blue Bloods, The Closer, Rizzoli & Isles, representation of women, representation of People of Color

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2019 Margaret Clark