The hit BBC’s series Bodyguard failed to break stereotypes about women, according to a former equalities chief.
Trevor Phillips, former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, described the show as “possibly the most misogynist piece of TV I’ve seen in years” in an article for Television, the Royal Television Society’s magazine.
The drama cast several women in leading roles, including Keeley Hawes as Home Secretary Julia Montague, the foil to Richard Madden’s bodyguard character David Budd.
Also featured were Gina McKee as the police counter-terror chief and Pippa Haywood as Chief Superintendent Lorraine Craddock.
Other female characters included suicide bomber Nadia, portrayed by Anjli Mohindra; PR assistant Chanel Dyson, played by Stephanie Hyam; and Budd’s wife Vicky, played by Peaky Blinders actress Sophie Rundle.
Several of the women were portrayed as ambitious, intelligent and scheming, as police officers are eventually revealed to have assisted in the assassination of the Home Secretary.
However, Mr Phillips said all the women in the show, which last month had the highest viewing figures for a BBC drama in a decade, were presented as “dim, devious, pusillanimous or all three”.
He added: “I am lucky to have known several of the real women who occupied the jobs portrayed – top politicians, cops and spooks; all of them forced their way to the top of male-dominated, sexist outfits by sheer character, and all of them can freeze molten lead with a glance at a range of 20 metres.”
Mr Phillips described the show’s creator Jed Mercurio, who also wrote police drama Line of Duty and hospital drama Bodies, as “some kind of writing genius” but suggested he “had some pretty rubbish (probably male) advice on this occasion”.
Last month, Mercurio hit out at social media users complaining about the high number of senior female characters on the show.
In an interview with Digital Spy, he said characters’ genders were always specified in the script.
He said: “It was scripted that way, and obviously I need to apologise to all the sexist Neanderthals out on Twitter who were having a go at me.
“Obviously, they’re completely clued up on the way the real world works.”
Bodyguard’s finale, which was screened on 23 September, attracted 10.4 million viewers, rising to 11 million in the final five minutes.
The show has not yet been confirmed for a second series.