It’s Good To Be A Woman
Two things made me happy yesterday. One: Doctor Who — after over 50 years — finally “anointed” a female Doctor, and two: Game of Thrones was back with a strong episode that featured women getting things done — without the help of a man, thank you very much — and not getting raped. I know in the scheme of things, those are just small victories but it just shows that pop culture, or rather television, is starting to be “woke” as the kids say it these days. They know that in 2017, a woman can be anything they want to be including a time-traveling, regenerating, 2000+ years old alien with two hearts and (often, depending on the actors playing the role) a Scottish accent and she can do anything, including poisoning and murdering a bunch of soldiers to avenge her family. Wait. Maybe don’t do that. As empowering as that cold open in the season premiere of Game of Thrones season 7 could be, most of us don’t go around in Kill Bill mode.
Anyway, before my mind starts rambling on, I do have a point. Television has been good to women these days because there are so many great, compelling, smart, inspiring, enjoyable, funny, compulsively watchable shows featuring women: complex, smart, three-dimensional, well thought out, strong, vulnerable, inspiring, confusing, amazing, weird, enigmatic women. Women who are just as interesting, if not more, to watch as men. Women who make you cheer for them, feel for them, root for them, angry for them (and sometimes, even angry at them). Television has been celebrating men for so long, the golden age of television was filled with iconic alpha male characters like Tony Soprano, Don Draper and Walter White. Now that we’re entering the second (or maybe third?) wave of “the golden age of television”, it’s time for women to take the reins and be celebrated for who they truly are: real people with real struggles, desires and emotions, not just the wives, girlfriends and daughters of the alpha male character.
Here are a few shows that do just that and more. Note that they’re not perfect shows and not all of them are actually made by women, but they all have merit and one thing that they all have in common: they put women in the center. So sit down on the couch, turn on the TV and get ready to celebrate what it means to be a woman with these fine shows.
- Big Little Lies. This Emmy-nominated HBO show was all the rage among women in the recent months not just because it boasted big names such as Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley, but because it’s a well-written, brilliantly-acted miniseries that tells the story of women in all their complexity. Set in the idyllic town of Monterey Bay, California, this show is not only gorgeous, it’s compelling and so compulsively watchable. Nicole Kidman shines in her role as Celeste Wright, a complicated woman whose life is starting to fall apart underneath the facade of her perfect marriage, but each and every single actress in this show delivers such powerful performances that you don’t want this miniseries to end, ever. Watch this with your girlfriends over a bottle of Cabernet and some Kale chips.
- The Handmaid’s Tale. Out of all the shows in this list, this one took me the longest to finish, not because it’s not good, quite the contrary, it’s one of the best shows on television right now, but because it’s just hard to watch in the current world political climate, where the premise of the show feels like a reality that can actually happen, instead of a dystopian fantasy. The Handmaid’s Tale depicts a harrowing future when radicalism has taken over and women’s rights have been stripped away to the point that women are being made as sex slaves who are subjugated to ritualized rape so they can bear children for their master and his wife. It’s intense and yes, quite depressing and it does lag a bit in the middle of the season, but it is also such a strong, powerful storytelling that’s boosted by the incredible performances of its stars, namely Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel and Ann Dowd. Watch this with your loved ones over a cup of tea and some anti-anxiety meds.
- Mary Kills People. I’ve just discovered this little Canadian show that could, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how good it actually is. It’s not just a Canadian medical drama even though it can be categorized as such, it is so much more. It’s about a strong, elusive, complicated woman, Dr. Mary Harris, who has a side occupation of well, killing people. But like, not in a bad way. She just euthanizes terminally ill patients who are tired of living, for a price. But she really believes that she’s helping people, which makes her all the more fascinating to watch. There are only six episodes in the season so you can breeze through this in less than a weekend. Watch this alone with some pizza and loads of caffeine.
- Jane The Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I’ve decided to combine these two because they really do go great together, even if the heroines in both these shows can not be more different. Jane Villanueva of Jane The Virgin is a devout, strong, clear-headed, smart woman who pretty much has her life together while Rebecca Bunch of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a successful New York lawyer who upends her life and moves to West Covina, California to essentially stalk her high school ex-boyfriend. Even though these two fantastic females are different, they are both absolutely riveting to watch. Jane The Virgin is a smart, funny, enjoyable telenovela (yes, that’s right) while Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a hilarious, self-aware, addictive musical comedy. They’re both great on their own, but if you watch them together, that’s about 2 hours of television magic you’ll cherish forever. Watch them with the girls of your family — your sisters, mother, grandmother, aunts, etc — over some junk food and loads of fizzy bubbly.
- GLOW and Orange Is The New Black. I’m combining these two shows together because they are both from the same showrunner, Jenji Kohan, and they both have an obvious similarity: the unlikable protagonist. In Orange Is The New Black, Piper Chapman is a self-centered, self-absorbed, flaky, hipster who is in way over her head while in GLOW, Ruth Wilder is a self-centered, self-absorbed, flaky, struggling actress who sleeps with her best friend’s husband. But just because the protagonist is unlikable, doesn’t mean these two shows aren’t enjoyable to watch. In both these shows, you’ll grow to love the characters as women and as humans, who make mistakes and aren’t perfect in any way. Who says women have to be perfect anyway? These shows ask us to celebrate women even when we’re being our ugly, selfish selves, and I find that rather beautiful. Watch them with your best girl friend over some wine coolers and loads of orange cheesy snacks.
- Younger and The Bold Type. I’m also combining these two shows together because they both have kind of the same theme: about beautiful women in fabulous clothes trying to make it in New York City. They share a similar vibe to Sex and The City, in fact, Younger is created by Darren Starr, who was also a showrunner in SATC. But just because a show boasts beautiful people and clothes, doesn’t mean it’s ultimately shallow and stupid. Younger — though light and fun — is smart in telling the story of a 40-something divorcee who decides to fake her age and pretends to be a 26-year old to reenter the workforce and try to be accepted in an industry that favors youth above all things. And though nobody pretends to be “younger” in The Bold Type, it is smart enough in portraying female leadership not as a total diva/boss bitch, but as a “benevolent dictator”, who is both inspiring and demanding. Watch them with your female co-workers as you unwind on a Friday night over a few pink cocktails and some creamy desserts.
- The 100. A lot of you, like me in the beginning, may dismiss this show as “a teen melodrama” at first, and you’d be very wrong. The 100, though it is adapted from a teen dystopian novel series, is so much more than a teen melodrama that only uses its futuristic dystopian background as an excuse to push for a love triangle. In fact, there is never really a love triangle in The 100. Everyone is far too busy trying to survive. This is not a teen drama, this is a political drama. This is a show about leadership and the complexity of power. This show also boasts a strong, complex, fascinating, bisexual female lead in Clarke Griffin, and she’s not the only strong-as-hell female in the show. If you ever need to feel empowered, this is the show for you. Watch this with your fellow #ladybosses over a few beers and maybe even a steak.
Honorable mentions: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (absurd, hilarious, fun and yes, continually proves that females are strong as hell!), Supergirl (the second season’s not my favorite — lack of Calista Flockhart will do that to a show — but it bounces back in the end and it’s just as inspiring as Wonder Woman), Grace and Frankie (a show about two women in their 70s? Why not?), Orphan Black (the later seasons are a little too convoluted but the early seasons are a must watch), The Good Fight (if you love The Good Wife, you’ll love this spin-off), Girls, Claws, Call The Midwife, Happy Valley, Fleabag…oh man there are too many shows!
So there you have it. The shows to add to your watch list whenever you need a little reminder that it’s good to be a woman. The world is still not perfect, but if television is any indication, we should take heart. The future is female and we are on our way there.