Over the past decade or so I have noticed a surprising influx of amazing, multidimensional and influential women on television shows. When looking at the bulk of television shows over the years we tend to see more women in stereotypical roles which are full of negative tropes, especially when looking at “reality” television, than anything else. If they aren’t a walking stereotype then they aren’t unique, they aren’t notable and are typically forgotten. Thankfully things are changing and many of the most popular television shows of today feature great female characters. Due to that fact I have been inspired to compile this list of women whom I believe break the stereotypical mold that casts many female characters on television. These characters (and many others) are realistic, they are strong in a variety of ways and they are depicted as real people regardless of however fictitious the character may be.
These women are inspirational to me in one way or another and to me they embody positive female representation. Keep in mind that I, like most people, have not seen every television show out there which means that this list consists of characters I appreciate from shows I have seen. That being said, I encourage all who read this to interject some of their favorite female characters from shows they like/have seen in the comment section. I’m always on the look out for cool new shows that feature amazing female characters!
Kate Beckett (Castle):
Kate Beckett, played by Stana Katic, is a tough-as-nails detective working for the NYPD on the television series Castle. Working alongside famous crime novel writer Rick Castle, played by Nathan Fillion, Beckett is always in control and on the ball despite Castle’s silly antics. What I love about Beckett as a character is that she is not only super smart and level-headed but she breaks the stereotypical “female cop” role that sadly befalls many women on cop drama television shows. The show Castle itself is equal parts comedy and drama and I’d say the same of Kate Beckett. She may be tough, strong and smart but she isn’t cold and standoffish like most women in similar roles. She makes jokes, she has fun and she is even allowed shameless romance but at the same time she is focused on her work and isn’t afraid to be in the line of fire (literally and figuratively). She is ultimately human and that is what makes her so amazing and influential.
Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation):
Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, is the main character in the comedy television series Parks and Recreation. Knope is an upbeat, motivated and truly dedicated city government employee working within the Parks Department alongside her boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and others. Knope is a special character because among all of her comically apathetic co-workers and friends she radiates with happiness and a general dedication to her job and city. I love Leslie Knope as a character because not only does she openly display feminist ideals while the show wonderfully satires some major issues facing women in government/politics, but she is also a very caring and loving person. She is a great friend and co-worker/boss and is generally a delightfully funny and realistic character. What makes her so amazing is that she can turn any negative into a positive and throughout the entire series she is able to retain her level of interest for government work despite all the hardships it brings her. I feel that this character can in a lot of ways be influential to young girls looking to get into government work and politics, fields typically dominated by males, by lighting up serious issues with well-done humor and making it look rewarding and positive.
Felicity Smoak (Arrow):
Felicity Smoak, played by Emily Bett Rickards, is a main supporting character in the Arrow television series. On the show Smoak works alongside her boss, friend and main romantic interest Oliver Queen, played by Stephen Amell, who is also the masked vigilante known as The Arrow. She coordinates any effort that has anything to do with computers and technology for Queen and others so it’s easy to say that she is the tech expert of the show. She’s insanely smart and logical but also serves as a center of morality for the team. While critics often pick at her character for being too emotional, which is in some ways a trope that befalls female characters more than males, I find her emotional nature to be a positive aspect of her character. Smoak isn’t afraid to be emotional, to cry about someone or something that she deeply cares about. She loves her friends and fights for what is right even when she is the only one doing so. Her character showcases that it’s ok to be emotional while being an amazingly smart and powerful at the same time, which is what makes her simply amazing.
Charlie Bradbury (Supernatural):
Charlie Bradbury is a recurring character played by Felicia Day in the television series Supernatural. While she is only in a handful of episodes of the nearly 11 seasons of Supernatural, Charlie tends to always find a way to save the day. She is first introduced in the Leviathan-arc and ends up giving the Winchester brothers the upper hand in defeating their foe at great risk to her own life. Such is the case with nearly all of Charlie’s appearances, she is constantly risking her life in order to help the show’s main characters and is always successful. What is so amazing about Charlie is that she is brilliant, smart and nerdy. It’s rare to see someone who LARP’s and keeps a replica Lord of the Rings sword in her home depicted as a hip, cool, friendly hero, least of all a female. Her character is also a lesbian and she does a great job at representing her sexuality on a show made up of 99% heterosexual males. Charlie shows courage paired with intelligence and humor on a regular basis and without her it’s clear that the Winchester brothers may have met their ultimate demise a long time ago.
Melinda May (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.):
Melinda May, played by Ming-Na Wen, is one of the main characters in Marvel’s Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series. She’s an agent with knack for being the best at what she does; something that she and everyone around her knows well. What I find most impressive about May is that she is a great “strong” character yet she still exhibits human qualities. Often time we see “strong” characters who are fairly one-dimensional or flat and that just isn’t the case with May. Throughout the series we see the tough exterior and this character who is super kick ass but we also see weaknesses and a sort of inner battle within her. May is indeed a very multidimensional character that continues to develop and show off new aspects of her personality with each episode of the show. It’s unique for the seemingly generic “strong lady” to be so full of character beyond the obvious strengths and because of that I find her to be an amazing character.
Carol Peletier (The Walking Dead):
Carol Peletier, played by Melissa McBride, is a character on AMC’s The Walking Dead. In a show full of amazing female characters such as Maggie Green (Lauren Cohan) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), as well as a plethora of brain eating zombies, Carol has always stood out to me as not only my favorite character but also the most amazing female character on the show. We first see her in a position of weakness; she is someone in an abusive relationship who has yet to stand up for herself and who is rarely seen doing anything except washing clothes and tending to her terrible husband. Once her husband dies, however, she blossoms into something much more amazing. Sadly she looses her only child soon after the death of her husband and while the world would have forgiven her for giving in to the grief, she didn’t. She came out of the tragedies in her life with a tenacity to fight back and quickly became one of the most badass characters the show has to offer. What I love about Carol as a character is that she is like a chameleon, she is able to change and adapt to every situation thrown her way and is also able to hide in plain sight as someone who seems harmless but is far from it. She’s not only unique, she has true grit and strength of character which I find inspirational – if the zombie apocalypse broke out tomorrow I’d want Carol in my group.
Sister Jude Martin (American Horror Story: Asylum):
Sister Jude Martin is the character played by Jessica Lange in American Horror Story: Asylum. In many ways Sister Jude is the villain of the first part of Asylum, but for all her faults and crimes she turns out to be one of the most amazing characters of the entire series, in my opinion. Sister Jude starts off as an unforgiving and cruel lead nun of an asylum for the criminally insane. Given that Asylum takes place in the 60’s, part of a longstanding oppressive time for women in America, and that the Catholic church has never been one to give women any power one could argue that her callous nature was due in part to being constantly oppressed at every turn. We see evidence of this throughout the show and at one point she breaks under the pressure of trying to prove her competence and is committed to the asylum she once oversaw. Sister Jude is a powerhouse of a character and in my opinion she is the most amazing character in the entirety of the American Horror Story series. She learns from her mistakes, she isn’t afraid of anything and she never gives up the fight to be seen as an equal by her male counterparts. One of the last things she says in the show is to a young girl and she says “Don’t you ever let a man tell you who you are or make you feel like you are less than he is” and I feel that this quote speaks volumes about her character. She is inspirational and amazing because despite her villainy she does her best to make things right and she also delivers some true pearls of wisdom to audience through her powerful dialog.