Fitting the profile: Dutch Wagenbach, realism, and the ensemble

Lorna Jowett, Nicholas Ray (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapter


Watching The Shield for the first time as a fan of The X-Files, it is immediately striking that detective Holland ‘Dutch’ Wagenbach is like a parallel Fox Mulder. But while Mulder was a hero in a two-character show that blended genres and had a fantastic premise, Dutch is part of an ensemble of characters in a much more firmly-rooted genre show with an aesthetic of gritty realism. In the parallel televerse of The Shield, the intellectual with an interest in psychological profiling is not a clean-cut hotshot who resists the structures of the FBI from the inside, he is rumpled, ageing and part of a police team whose other members often ridicule him. This chapter explores how the realist aesthetic and the ensemble cast of The Shield work to position Dutch in particular ways but also add complexity to his character. The show is often about masculinities, and to succeed in negotiating this, it uses its ensemble cast to contrast different versions of masculinity and femininity, and the ways these are inflected by race, ethnicity, class and sexuality. As another anxious white male, Dutch is essential to presenting this complex web of representation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterrogating The Shield
Place of PublicationSyracuse, New York
PublisherSyracuse University Press
Number of pages227
ISBN (Print)9780815633082
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

Publication series

NameTelevision and popular culture


  • television
  • crime drama
  • masculinity
  • gender
  • representation
  • aesthetics
  • The Shield
  • The X-Files


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