5 Things: TV’s Most Compelling Female Characters
Today is International Women’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year. Today I celebrate with my favorite women on TV, those who I find the most compelling. I’m not going to claim that I can list the 5 most compelling women currently on television because I don’t watch every single TV show. But as I woman and as a viewer, I know when a female character is fleshed out, and I know when she’s well written. With that, here are my 5 most compelling female characters.
5. Rayna James and Juliette Barnes, Nashville
Okay, I know, this is actually two women, but their stories are so thoroughly intertwined I couldn’t possibly separate them. Is Nashville a nighttime soap geared toward a female audience? Yes. Does it have all of the elements of melodrama? Love triangles: check, political scandals: check, characters that fall off the wagon: check, unnecessary death: check. Does that mean these wonderful women don’t deserve a mention? Absolutely not. Nashville is the story of powerhouse women trying to survive in the male-run entertainment industry. Rayna and Juliette are amazing, creative, and flawed human beings who rise above the men that would keep them down. I could not have possibly made this list without them.
4. Melinda May, Agents of SHIELD
I’m not the biggest fan of Agents of SHIELD but I am a huge fan of Melinda May. This bad-ass woman is oftentimes more complex than any other character in the series (with the obvious exceptions of Coulson and Mike), a warrior, and she is fiercely loyal to those she loves. It is rare to see a female in the role of the fighter, let alone a rogue. Plus she’s played by the amazing Ming-Na Wen. What’s not to love?
3. Sophia Burset, Orange is the New Black
Sophia is not only the most likeable character on Orange is the New Black, she’s also one of the most well-played characters by Laverne Cox. Sophia’s story is not simply fascinating on a voyeuristic level, and it’s never written that way. Though she is a woman who may often crack jokes as the comedic relief, she is constantly at war. She is fighting for her body, her mind, and the respect of those around her. Sophia Burset is proof that there is more than one kind of woman, and all women deserve respect.
2. Claire Underwood, House of Cards
Don’t get me started on how evil Claire Underwood is, because I understand how this choice might not be everyone’s top pick. But the second season of House of Cards allowed Claire to tell a story that I have been desperately waiting for my entire adult life. As a woman, I do not believe that anyone should be silenced for being a victim. I feel strongly that the conversation of rape in television is often a fetishization of a crime against humanity and frequently pornographic in nature (it’s one of the reasons I’ve stopped watching Law and Order:SVU); but Claire Underwood’s story of being a rape victim who breaks her silence, obtains justice, and works to better the lives of fellow victims to be one of the most compelling, beautiful, and necessary stories I have ever seen told.
1. Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
I never thought that my favorite female character on television would be in a comedy series, but damnit if Leslie Knope isn’t compelling. This woman fights harder than anyone in her world for the good of the people around her, but more importantly she fights for the good of complete strangers. Yes, her dedication to her fellow citizens of Pawnee has been her own downfall, but she has never allowed herself to stay down. Because she is a crusader for justice. She is my biggest inspiration as a woman. She is Leslie Knope.