Hulu is convenient for a lot of shows, but one of the things I really enjoy about it is the supply of classic shows. I used to watch Mary Tyler Moore when I was younger, but it had been a very long time since I’ve seen it. The last few days, I’ve been watching random episodes from the first three seasons, and it’s made me think a lot about female characters on television.
Mary Richards was really a break-through in female characters on television, and there are some relatively worthy heir’s in today’s television world, though complex female characters are still sadly lacking in many, many ways.
Here are my top 6 favorite female characters currently on television*
Liz Lemon— Ah, Tina Fey. Liz is probably the most obviously “Mary Richards-esque” character on this list. The technically “sane” center of the a wacky, weird world of TGS with Tracy Jordan, Liz has to negotiate her way through a male-centered business, network television, plus deal with a complete inability to function properly in her personal life. Of course, no one on 30 Rock seems to really function in their personal life, so she’s definitely not alone. Meanwhile, she spouts Star Wars references, watches Designing Women marathons, and is an all around awesome comedy creation.
Kara Thrace— Battlestar Galactica has always had a really interesting, nuanced view of gender, and Starbuck is the most fascinating case study on the show. She is a hard-drinking trouble-maker when we meet her, and she never really loses most of that. Her romantic relationships often subvert expected gender roles (after all, she rescues Lee and Anders’ asses so many times, you lose count), but the subversion is never played as weird, which makes it more powerful to me. Plus, I just love her AND her special destiny. She is completely infuriating sometimes, but I can’t help but want her to be happy and find some peace.
Robin Scherbatsky— Robin Sherbatsky doesn’t want to get married. She doesn’t want kids. She wants to feel stimulated by and respected for her work. During the first season of How I Met Your Mother, in the totally awesome episode “the Slutty Pumpkin,” Robin’s failure to be part of cutesy couple behavior gets her dumped, and she worries aloud that she might be “wired wrong” because of all her traditionally non-“girl” behavior. Ted tells her she’s “wired just fine,” and what’s great is, that’s how the show treats her. Peculiar in some ways, sure, but also completely awesome, beloved by the others for rather than in spite of her non-traditional femininity. This season, she’s been off her game, more so because of her employment problems than romance problems, so I am excited to see her take on her new job with the same awesomeness as she approaches the rest of her life. Also: She’s ROBIN SPARKLES.
Tami Taylor— In last Friday’s episode of Friday Night Lights, Tami deals with a controversy over her decision as principal to use funds allocated for a Jumbo-tron to help pay for teachers. Her “friend” Katie McCoy (I don’t trust that woman for a second) tells her to be careful, because no one likes an “angry woman.” Later on, as Tami tries to explain to the Superintident the reasons his treatment of the issue has been unfair, he tells her to “calm down.” It was, even for me just watching, an infuriating moment, because it rang very true. What’s great about Tami is that, though she exists in this very real world of small town Texas, she doesn’t let it stop her from kicking ass. So even when she had to admit that she simply could not win this battle– football is god in Dillon– she didn’t take it lying down. Plus, she and Coach Taylor have an incredible relationship; sometimes they both do stupid things, but in the end they are respectful and supportive of each other, no matter what. Also, YOU SHOULD ALL WATCH FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.Vodpod videos no longer available.
Pam Beesley— I know there’s been a lot of push-back from fans about her character’s development the last season or so, but I can’t help feel an incredibly deep affection for her. Her story arc, seasons 2-3, still gets me not because she’s necessarily the strongest female character you’ll ever see, but because she works really hard to get and be stronger than she’s inclined to be. She has to work against the internal element that tells her just to accept the way things are and go with the flow. That’s what leads to her telling Jim how she feels, even when it is in a sort of embarassing situation, it’s what leads to her take the jump and go to design school, even if she decides in the end that it isn’t for her.
Peggy Olson— Of all the interesting women on Mad Men, Peggy Olson is definitely my favorite. I’ll admit part of that is because stories of Catholic guilt issues always fascinate me, but I also love watching her pioneer her way through a male-dominated world. She is, mostly, a nice person, but that doesn’t stop her from becoming a shrewd employee, and working her way up the chain, even getting herself a good new office, simply by deciding what she wants, and working her ass off until she gets it.
*I left off Olive Snook from Pushing Daisies because, though I think she is a fascinating and wonderfully complex character, and I particularly appreciate the fact that she and Chuck became friends rather than enemies, Pushing Daisies is never returning to ABC. I must accept this.