Orphan Black

My Favorite Feminist Characters on TV in 2016

Before we begin, a few things are worth pointing out.

1. As with any list post, this is by no means a complete list of feminist characters on TV. I’ve chosen characters I like, from show that I watch. I may not watch shows that you watch and they might have some awesome feminist characters in them. If you do, by all means tell me what I’m missing in the comments, because I would love to watch them!

2. Being a feminist does not mean you have to be a female. So, if men make the list, try and remember that.

3. While I can think of loads of other feminist characters that have been on TV and have likely forgotten tons that currently are, which will result in kicking myself later, this is where we’re at now.

4. This list will likely be updated and/or redone next year to reflect the new fall shows coming out that will likely have a few great characters, but that I have yet to see.

5. These are pretty much in no certain order. I like them all for different reasons, so while they appear on numbered pages, don’t give the numbers too much attention.

-Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones)

Mother-of-Dragons

She is the Mother of Dragons. In fact, some of her titles include, “Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.” Daenerys was sold to her husband to make an alliance for her ungrateful brother, and ended up turning lemons into lemon-fucking-aide. When people told her she couldn’t do something, she soldiered on, gained a following, and come hell or high water, she’s going to get what’s hers. She’s one of the best (and one of my favorite) feminist characters on television, right now.

-All of the Leda Clones (Sarah, and Cosima, and Allison, and Helena…and) (Orphan Black)

Orphan-Black-Sisters

The amazing thing about Orphan Black is that all of these characters are strong and fabulous, while also being completely unique. Being strong, doesn’t necessarily make them feminists, but in this case, each character seems to exhibit her own type of feminism. Allison is a slightly (okay, completely) neurotic powerhouse of a suburban mother who manages to be everywhere and do everything, even if it requires a slight drug habit. Cosima is rocking it in the STEM world and proving that lesbian relationships can be completely sexy and endearing without relying on just sex. Helena is, well, Helena. She finds her strength in her sestra and that is ultimately something so many of us women need to find. And then there is Sarah. She’s fucked up, flawed, and never gives up trying to help herself, her daughter, and her sisters.

-Olivia Benson (Law & Order SVU)

Olivia-Benson

Olivia has no choice but to be a feminist, given the job she’s chosen. I have to imagine that being a detective in the sex crimes unit of the New York City police department would require a woman that was tough as nails. Olivia Benson is the perfect representation of that woman. She’s tough, but vulnerable. She’s hard, but loving when the moment (or person) calls for it. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and it’s clear that she is there for the victims as much as she is to take down the bad guys. In a completely male-dominated world, Olivia shows us that women can be anything, even high-ranking police officers.

-Michonne (The Walking Dead)

michonne

Michonne is awesome for so many reasons. She’s a woman of color and she yields a mighty impressive sword that she definitely knows how to use. Despite the fact that she could easily wipe out a field of walkers all on her own, she’s all woman. She has a sensitive side and as we’ve seen from the backstory, her life was likely nothing like you or I imagined it might have been before we saw the flashbacks. While I might not let young children watch TWD, this is the kind of feminist character I want little girls to see. I’d rather have one Michonne over one hundred Hannah Horvaths any day.

-Cat Grant (Supergirl)

Cat-Grant

Cat is the savvy go-getter media girl in all of us. When confronted with the idea that she didn’t name Supergirl, Superwoman, she asked, “What’s wrong with being a girl?” She started at the bottom and clawed her way up, certainly breaking as many glass ceilings as she felt were blocking her. In fact, the worst thing about Cat Grant is that in season two she isn’t going to be a season regular…just a guest star.

-Alex Parrish (Quantico)

Alex-Parrish

Just because a girl has brown skin it doesn’t mean you can label her a terrorist and get away with it. Before Quantico was released, I’ll admit that I had my reservations. That said, they were mainly about the longevity of the show. It didn’t take long to fall in love with protagonist Alex Parrish though. She’s sexy, strong, and sure of herself. Even in her bad moments, she is determined to see things through to the end. We definitely need more girls like her on TV.

-Jamie Fraser (Outlander)

Jamie-Fraser

On the surface, certainly in the landscape of the Scottish Highlands, Jamie Fraser or any man on Outlander probably doesn’t seem like a feminist. But if you watch Jamie, especially with Claire, you might find the opposite to be true. While I’ve not seen all of the episodes in the second season, the ones I have seen make me certain that he’s a good role model where male feminists are concerned. He respects Claire, who is clearly a feminist, and when she takes him to task for being macho, he listens. It’s clear that despite the time in which he lives, he believes that women are capable of more than just being girlfriends, wives, and/or baby makers.

-Penelope Garcia (Criminal Minds)

Penelope Garcia

Penelope is such a wonderful character because she’s not like any other woman on television. She’s funny, assertive, and her own person. She’s bigger than your average female character, but just as beautiful. And, she’s a badass hacker that is often the eyes and ears behind the FBI’s profiling unit. While Penelope clearly likes men, she also makes it clear that she doesn’t need a relationship to be a whole person, and that’s one lesson that many writers forget to offer their female characters.

-Rosalee (Underground)

Rosalee

When Underground begins, Rosalee offers the impression of a naïve, innocent girl that has yet to be hardened by the cruel world that she has been brought up in. By the end of the season, you can only celebrate her accomplishments as a woman and a fighter of an unjust system. When you think she has nothing left, and you certainly question whether you personally would have given up at that point, she finds a way to keep going.

-Jamie Lannister (Game of Thrones)

Jamie-Lannister

It’s hard to imagine 99.9% of the Game of Thrones characters as feminist, but if one man was, it would be Jamie. I know…I know. He sleeps with his sister. I also know that some would point out a specific issue that occurred with him and her, but I don’t view that particular event the way many do. What I do see, is a man that generally treats both men and women equally in a world where no one seems to do that. You could even argue that his biggest ally and best friend is Brienne of Tarth, a woman he holds in very high regard, and both trusts and respects more than most of the men he knows.

-Carol (The Walking Dead)

Carol

Carol’s triumph comes in the fact that she transforms so much over the course of TWD. It’s hard to imagine the timid wife who receives beatings at the campsite is the same woman that set someone on fire for group preservation or saved her group on more than one occasion, nearly single-handedly. Carol went from being uncertain and unsure of herself to being strong and brave in a way that few are. She continues to evolve and transform, which is one of the best things about her. You see her ups and downs, and that makes her human in a way that so many characters are not.

-Kara Danvers (Supergirl)

Supergirl
First off, she’s Supergirl. I would hope like hell that she’s feminist. In fact, I’d hope she was more than just about anyone. Kara’s strength is not solely visible when she’s wearing her suit though. She’s also strong, caring, and equality-minded when she’s just regular old Kara. Perhaps the best thing about Kara is that she knows what she wants and she’s willing to wait for it without settling. If the moment presents itself, that’s great, but if not, she has other things to do while she waits.

-Ernestine (Underground)

Ernestine

Ernestine might be the head house slave on a plantation that runs solely off the backs of those just like her, but it’s clear that her position allows her to run things in a way the owners of the home can only imagine. Ernestine protects her children with a fiery passion, and even in her relationships she makes it clear that nothing happens without her say so and consent. Her confidence and in-charge attitude are not expected or befitting of a woman of color in this period of history, but damned if they aren’t refreshing. You can’t help but root for her from start to finish.

-Brienne of Tarth (Game of Thrones)

Brienne-of-Tarth

As Brienne will tell you, people picked on her, and they laughed at her. She wasn’t the typical girl and she suffered for it. But now, she wipes those same men who laughed at her off the battlefield. She is strong in ways that many women, especially on GoT, are not. She is capable in ways that many of them are not. She may not be your typical female, but that is what makes her so important. We’re not all the same. She shows us that even if you have nothing, you still have your word.

-Stella Gibson (The Fall)

Stella-Gibson

If you haven’t watched The Fall, go and watch it. It’s on Netflix and it’s not that long. I hesitated at first, because I need to see a Jamie Dornan movie or television show like I need an extra hole in the head, but Gillian Anderson makes everything better. He’s actually not that bad, but she’s amazing. Stella is a self-assured, confident, sexy player in a world dominated by men. As a powerful woman she promotes other women, rather than breaking them down. She fucks who she wants and she always manages to get the job done, the way it needs to be done.

-Jessica Jones (Jessica Jones)

jessica-jones

Jessica Jones is a hot mess. Seriously. If you haven’t seen this show, she’s got PTSD, and she’s an alcoholic. Things are pretty bleak for this Hell’s Kitchen P.I. Hell, she doesn’t even have a glass pane on her door until half-way through the season. Still, she’s got heart. Maybe too much. Her heart drives her into situations that could be incredibly dangerous, but it’s usually not her own safety she’s thinking of. Usually you don’t think of super heroes as a hot mess. That’s okay, Jessica isn’t really a super hero. She’s more of an anti-heroine. And, she’s a fucking super fabulous mess.



About

Ashtyn Law is a freelance writer living in Ohio. Focusing on film, she spends much of her days watching and analyzing film and television and also writing screenplays.


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