Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Fabiana Alceste

Second Advisor

Stacy Wetmore


The present study examines whether there has been a change in the portrayal of female criminal investigators over the past two decades. Cultivation Theory suggests that media profoundly impacts the views of the larger society, thus indicating significant implications of this portrayal. Five popular shows (Chicago P.D., Criminal Minds, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Hawaii Five-O, and Law & Order: SVU) were explored with 200 episodes examined between the series using a mixed-methods approach. The main characters in each show’s first and most recent seasons were coded and analyzed. Characters were coded for depth, authority, helplessness, and sexualization, among other variables. The percentage of women as main characters across the shows increased from 27.59% to 37.84% between 1998 and 2022. More specifically, 0% of characters who led the fictional investigative team in the first seasons were women and 40% were women in the later seasons. These findings suggest that the representation of women in crime dramas has improved as the years have progressed, though they are still seen as subordinate to their male counterparts. The improvement in the representation of female investigators demonstrates to young girls that they can join the law enforcement profession and fosters more respect for the work of female investigators who currently work in the investigative field.