If there is one thing that has remained constant in the Starz series "Spartacus," it's the presence of some very interesting female characters. Yet does their presence mean that premium television has moved into offering some actual meaty roles for women, or are they still just eye-candy? Well, in this case, it seems like it's a little of both.
Throughout the seasons of the show thus far, we have seen a great deal of naked human flesh, both male and female. From Lucretia and her seduction of both Crixus and Batiatus, to all of the other female characters who show off their wares, there can be no doubt that the female body is very much on display in this particular vision of the ancient Roman Republic.
And yet, the female characters also happen to be some of the cleverest and most dynamic players in this powerful drama. Lucretia, for example, showed time and time again that she was not only fiercely intelligent, but also incredibly adept at manipulating people into doing her bidding. What's more, she didn't feel herself bound to always serve Batiatus' will, hence her long-standing affair with Crixus (whom she genuinely seemed to love, despite everything).
As a result of all of this, the female characters in this series manage to show time and again that they have plotlines and motivations that do not solely revolve around the men in their lives. Do they love? Absolutely, but they also have desires that they are more than willing to satisfy, often at the expense of the men in their lives. Lucretia may support Batiatus, but she doesn't always do what he expects her to do (and sometimes flouts his will).
So, despite the fact that the men seem to be the real movers of the series, it's the actions of the women that really are the deciding factor time and again. What's more, they often have a great deal more complexity than their male counterparts. Oh sure, we may love Spartacus and want him to succeed in his rebellious efforts, but there can be no doubt that a woman like Lucretia could run circles around him if she really wanted to do so.
In the end, it's rather difficult to say whether "Spartacus" really marks anything new when it comes to the representation of women. Overall, however, it does seem to make a departure from epic films in that it gives female characters a large chunk of screen time and, just as importantly, allows them to have their own motivations that do not, necessarily, have to do with the men in their lives. Hopefully, the new crop of female leads will be able to fill the shoes left by the likes of Lucretia. Only time will tell.