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Killing Eve

Killing Eve is more than an award-winning TV show; it’s a cultural moment in time, part of growing shift in the female narrative, which has significant impact for brands and businesses alike.

Izzy Ashton

Assistant Editor, BITE

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The media helps shape what we deem to be societal norms, especially when it comes to gender portrayal. The average Briton watches 12 hours of on-demand TV every week, according to a survey by ComRes for the health body UKActive. This means we watch eight times more on-demand TV than we take exercise each week. With all this time spent behind a screen consuming content, it’s even more vital that the shows we consume and the stories being told not just accurately reflect the world we’re living in but show the possibilities for progressive change.

Heroines like the ones at the heart of Killing Eve are reflective of the power of these new female-led narratives to cut through in a crowded marketplace. The TV show has captivated audiences on both sides of the Atlantic with its seductive, hilarious and at times downright terrifying tale of a cat and mouse chase, M16 agent and psychopathic murderer.

Based on a series of books by Luke Jennings, Codename Villanelle, the show’s heroine, or villain depending on the way you look, takes her name from the title. Villanelle, played brilliantly by Jodie Comer, is a high-profile master of disguise, and has spent much of her life travelling the world hunting down targets to assassinate. The eponymous Eve Polastri, played equally as brilliantly by Sandra Oh, is tasked by her M16 boss with hunting Villanelle down.

But what begins as a mission turns into a mutual obsession, one that the BBC have captured in their launch campaign for the series’ Season 2. Appearing on billboards across London, as well as on the radio and social media, Villanelle is #CrazyForEve as she sends song requests on BBC Radio 1 before having a Twitter meltdown. The campaign captures a level of the extraordinary relationship that formed between Villanelle and Eve in season one. It’s a relationship that details the female power dynamic in all its colours, examining the push pull between good and evil, the polarity of personality and what it means to be human, to be a woman.

Killing Eve is part of a wave of award-winning TV shows, alongside The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies, championing a new female narrative and driving new female archetypes of success and seduction.

The need for these new narratives were placed in sharp focus by the ongoing work of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The institute’s research, conducted with J Walter Thompson New York revealed there are twice as many male characters in ads than female characters. Women were 48% more likely to be shown in the kitchen, while men where 50% more likely to be shown at a sporting event.

As Davis explains: “What we’re trying to do is have media representations better reflect reality.” She’s best placed to know, having starred in the infamous film Thelma and Louise as one half of a duo fleeing the law across America after thwarting and killing an attempted rapist. This film was ground-breaking for many reasons but principally for the strong female leads that presented viewers with another idea of what it means to be a woman.

Where once a woman’s breakthrough role would be a stoic mother, passionate lover or maybe even a troubled teen, we are finally seeing them to be so much more complex. Because who knew that a psychopathic killer could also be someone with a penchant for pale pink Molly Goddard dresses, who rides a motorbike in denim hot pants and commits murder in a lace Burberry dress.

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