I’m a film person, but in the evenings, I often find feature length movies too much of a commitment. If I’m tired, and can’t guarantee I’ll keep my eyes open for a whole two hours, a bit of TV just hits the spot – although admittedly, I often find myself marathoning a few more episodes than intended, which sort of defeats the point. In this post, I’m writing about three of my favourite shows with female leads, who I think are the epitome of girl power.
Jane the Virgin
If you can get over the ridiculous title, I absolutely recommend Jane, her fabulous family, and the ridiculous circumstances she finds herself in. Initially, Jane is just a normal girl – she works as a waitress, has a cute boyfriend, and is trying to get her degree and become a romance writer. She also happens to be a virgin, and through a series of silly circumstances, finds herself pregnant through artificial insemination – yeah, I know, it’s really quite out there, but I promise the way this show presents itself makes up for any and all silliness. Jane, her young Mum and her beloved Abuela talk in a mix of Spanish and English – yes, this show is actually bilingual! – and their relationships are where the strengths truly are. Abuela is quite straight-laced, but cares about her daughter and granddaughter more than anything else in the world. Xo, Jane’s mother, is the opposite – flaky, still young at heart, chasing a singing career and a few men along the way. I’m oversimplifying, but Jane is somewhere in between; she knows how to have fun but is also sensible and levelheaded. These women are the absolute core of the show, and they love, protect, and help each other constantly, even when fighting. There relationships are complicated yet constant, and it’s the most realistic portrayal of a close, if occasionally dysfunctional family I have ever seen on television. As an aside, it’s probably also the funniest show I’ve watched in the last year or two, and it’s on UK Netflix, so you have no excuse not to start watching it immediately.
If you hadn’t guessed from the title, Nashville is a very American TV show, so if you’re a fellow Brit, you’ll have to take much of it with a generous pinch of salt. It is also quite a white show, at least in its first season; nonetheless, the female characters are never boring. I hope you give this show a chance, because it explores the country music scene gorgeously, and is crammed with endearing female characters – my favourite being Juliette Barnes, a pop-country megastar who’s trying to shake her tween image. She is complicated, fierce and reckless, and often comes across as something of an antihero, but is always at least somewhat sympathetic; I find myself wanting to hug her just as often as I find myself hating her. Rayna James, the other female lead, is more of an established artist, but has just as many struggles – often, she seems desperate trying to find a balance between fame, motherhood, business and artistry. Bonus mentions go to her two children, Maddie and Daphne, and budding artist Scarlett O’Connor; Scarlett in particular is a sweet, softly-spoken southern belle, and could easily have come across as weak, but it is made very clear that she knows her worth and always stands up for herself when she needs to. The best part of this show, though, is when the girls come together to support each other: there’s a lot of rivalry, especially between Juliette and Rayna, but when the going gets tough, seeing the girls be there for each other is utterly uplifting.
From a feminist perspective, this show predominantly has two things going for it: Olivia Colman as DS Ellie Miller, and Jodie Whittaker as Beth Latimer. These two characters are absolute powerhouses – fearless, intelligent, funny, but most of all, emotional. If you know nothing about that show, keep it that way, but I wholeheartedly recommend it: it’s a juicy crime drama with utterly stunning cinematography, currently midway through its third series, and it never fails to have me hooked. Some of my favourite scenes have been when these women are totally unafraid to wear their emotions openly and proudly – there is no holding back, no toughening up, just beautifully acted, raw, deep, often harrowing pain, sadness, and anger. Don’t get me wrong, they’re also capable of being funny and silly – but the strength of these characters, and therefore this show, is in dramatic, serious, heart-wrenching stuff.
So, those are a few of my favourite feminist TV shows of the moment. I’m always up for a new show to marathon, so if you have any recommendations – I’m particularly partial to female-led comedies and crime dramas – do let me know.