Eight Empowered Female Television Characters

Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars in VERONICA MARS (Image Credit: Warner Bros.)
Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars in VERONICA MARS (Image Credit: Warner Bros.)

By now, you all probably know that I love TV shows and that some of the characters on these shows are my fictional friends. Well, a girl doesn’t only need fictional friends. She also needs fictional heroines to look up to. That’s why I made a list of eight empowered fictional women on TV. Girls just wanna have fun? Sure, but some girls aim higher, and that’s awesome. 

Spoiler alert to all you TV fans that aren’t up to date on the shows mentioned! Read on at your own risk!

Veronica Mars – Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars is a super hero in the body of a teenage girl. Life hasn’t treated her well. Her best friend got mysteriously murdered, her alcoholic mother took off, she got drugged and raped, and her father is disgraced and ousted from the Sherriff’s Department. Luckily for her, she’s a tough cookie. Veronica uses her brain and moral compass to solve crimes as a private investigator which earns her respect and some extra pocket money. Because of her detective skills she doesn’t need men to save her. On the contrary, she’s often the one to save men from horrid situations. When our hero is in a relationship, she doesn’t get pathetic. Her relationship with Logan even fails because of his constant protection mode. This sister is doing it for herself. Don’t try calling Veronica a lady, or she’ll taser you without blinking or breaking a sweat.

One of Veronica’s super powers is that she can read people very well. Her insight into character helps her to be always one step ahead of other investigators. But also in the heat of the moment she can keep her head cool and think straight, which rescues her many times. When the series ended, Veronica was on the verge of becoming an FBI intern. An ambitious, smart and cute superhero we can all look up to.

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in PARKS AND RECREATION (Image Credit: Tyler Golden / NBC)
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in PARKS AND RECREATION (Image Credit: Tyler Golden / NBC)

Leslie Knope – Parks and Recreation

Leslie Knope’s goal is to become the first female President of the United States. A big dream, for sure, but Leslie is probably the best example of the kind of feminist character I want to see more of on television. There are several reasons for her empowering awesomeness. One of those reasons is that she’s proud to be a woman and doesn’t see herself as anything less than her male peers. Leslie, as the inventor of Galentine’s Day, supports other women and genuinely wants them to succeed and be happy. She’s not a backstabbing bitch, unlike most fictional women who are ambitious and successful.  Leslie doesn’t only support fellow women, she also looks up to her female forerunners. This is illustrated by her gallery of female politicians who inspire her.

Gender equality stands very high on Leslie’s agenda. When she was little, she wasn’t allowed to join the boys-only Pawnee Rangers (sort of Boy Scouts). She therefore decided to start a girls-only group called the Pawnee Goddesses. She eventually lets boys in because she realizes that exclusion because of gender isn’t fair.

Leslie doesn’t let a man (not even the love of her life) get in the way of her dream to become an important politician. But she’s a warm and sweet person as well. She’s not a tough bitch. I applaud the fact that she is both ambitious and genuinely nice and optimistic. Leslie is quirky, nerdy and sometimes clumsy, but not in a way that we would mock her.

I love her relationship with Ben. They’re both equally quirky, and Ben respects her wish to be a successful politician. We need more role models like her.

Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore in GILMORE GIRLS (Image Credit: Mitchell Haddad / Warner Bros.)
Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore in GILMORE GIRLS (Image Credit: Mitchell Haddad / Warner Bros.)

Lorelai & Rory Gilmore – Gilmore Girls

Lorelai: A single mom, who raised her kid all by herself. Lorelai knows what she’s worth and she gets what she wants. She takes evening classes to get a business degree and starts running her own Inn. She’s proud and doesn’t want the help of her rich parents, but when this means Rory can’t go to a good school where her brain gets fed, she lets her parents help her. She does this only to guarantee that her daughter has every chance to become successful in life. This means that she has to meet her parents for dinner every Friday. Lorelai had been on non-speaking terms with them for not supporting her choice to not marry Christopher when she was sixteen and pregnant with Rory. These dinners therefore sound like Hell to Lorelai, but she sucks it up for her kid. Her romantic relationships aren’t always perfect, but she ends up with a man who knows her inside out and respects her life choices. Luke and Lorelai forever!

Rory: A bright young girl who loves reading (and often reads feminist prose). She is proud of what her mother has accomplished and grateful for all the chances she has gotten because of her efforts and sacrifices. She dreams of going to Harvard, but goes to Yale instead and studies journalism. Her (really handsome, but slightly annoying and snobbish) boyfriend proposes to her when they graduate, but she turns him down because she feels too young to be tied down and she wants to chase down her dream of becoming a successful journalist, instead of  being Logan’s “trophy wife”. Stars Hollow was her safe haven when she grew up, but it became too small for her when she decided to become a journalist.

Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher in SHAMELESS (Image Credit: Showtime)
Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher in SHAMELESS (Image Credit: Showtime)

Fiona Gallagher – Shameless (US Version)

Fiona is the oldest of the six Gallagher kids and she takes care of all her siblings. As the manager of the Gallagher household, she cooks, cleans, and raises money. Her mother and father aren’t fit to take care of their children since they’re always drunk and extremely irresponsible. Although the Gallagher kids know how to party, they know how to take care of themselves and each other as well. Fiona is respected by her siblings, friends and neighbors for her hard work and loyalty. This well-earned respect results in the support of all the people she helps out repeatedly.

As for men, Fiona never lets a love interest get in the way of what she wants (which is taking care of her family). When her boyfriend, Steve, offers her money, she either refuses to take the cash or she takes it only because one of her siblings desperately needs it.

Some of the jobs she has to do aren’t exactly “ladylike”, but she’s brave and strong and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Fiona is fierce and loyal, but insecure at the same time, which makes her human. When her brilliant brother Lip threatens to leave high school because he’s fed up, she makes a bet with him. If she manages to get her high school diploma, he will finish high school as well. Easier said than done, Fiona studies for her tests while running the household and earning money. She succeeds, which gives her the opportunity to get a better job. Fiona Gallagher is truly a modern heroine.

Connie Britton as Tami Taylor in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (Image Credit: NBC Universal)
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (Image Credit: NBC Universal)

Tami Taylor – Friday Night Lights

Tami Taylor is Friday Nights Lights’ problem solving mom who has a very strong moral compass. She supports her husband who is a successful football coach, but is very aware of the fact that she deserves a chance at being in a leading position as well. Tami is the voice of reason because she usually knows best and knows how to convince others into doing what’s best as well.

Her career evolves from guidance counselor at the local high school, Dillon High, to the principal there, to guidance counselor at East Dillon, to the Dean of Admissions at a college in Philadelphia. Tami and Eric are great as a couple because they respect and support each other. That doesn’t mean that her career is just handed to her. She has to fight for it, even with her husband (Eric didn’t show his best side). Tami would never do anything that would break up her family, but she’s also strong enough to fight for her right to be a career woman.

In Season 2 she takes care of her teenage daughter, Julie, and her baby girl, Gracie, on her own while her husband is coaching the football team of TMU in Austin. It’s hard, but she does it because she believes that Eric deserves this chance. Karma treats her right when she and Eric move to Philadelphia where he will coach a local high school team and she becomes the Dean of Admissions at a prestigious school. A job she will be great at, without a doubt.

Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson in SUITS (Image Credit: Christos Kalohoridis / USA Network)
Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson in SUITS (Image Credit: Christos Kalohoridis / USA Network)

Jessica Pearson – Suits

Jessica Pearson is a managing partner and co-founder of the fictional law firm Pearson Hardman in New York City. She is an ambitious woman who can seem cold-hearted, but is actually righteous and kind. Jessica and her protégé Harvey have a special bond. She wants him to be the best lawyer he can be, but also the best person he can be. When he does something wrong (morally or work related) she is strict with him. Jessica is not the kind of woman you’d want to mess with. She’s fierce, she’s strong and she never loses. A tall drink of water, physically and professionally.

Jessica has the kind of job that doesn’t leave room for a family or close friends. She’s a woman in a “man’s world”, but she can make most men beg for mercy with her powerful tone and kickass brain. And have I mentioned her impeccable sense of style? Every time she enters the scene I scream “I want to look this elegant and professional, give me that coat, give me those earrings, I need that dress!” So, no, she doesn’t have a husband or kids. But she consciously chose a career instead of family life and that’s a choice we should respect. I’m sure a lot of women would rather be successful career women instead of caregivers, but don’t feel as if society approves of that choice. Don’t let society make decisions for you. If you want it, go and get it, just like Jessica Pearson.

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson (Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels / AMC)
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson (Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

Peggy Olson – Mad Men

At the beginning of Season 1 of the ‘60s series Mad Men, Peggy Olson is an innocent, yet ambitious secretary at the advertising agency Sterling Cooper. She has recently graduated from the Miss Deaver’s Secretarial School and is eager to work in the big city. Soon her creativity is discovered and she is offered a job as a copywriter. This makes her the first women writer at the firm since World War II. Watching Peggy, a woman, give brilliant insights is described as “watching a dog play the piano.”  Peggy is disgusted by this kind of double standard concerning men and women in the professional field. She knows what she’s worth and she’s equally ambitious as her male colleagues.  The fact that Don Draper respects her is, I think, a big deal. Don has a problematic idea of women and treats women often as toys. Obviously, none of the women who are treated badly by Don deserve this, but Peggy shows him that he cannot treat her like that. When she’s sick of Don’s behavior, she leaves the firm to go work for a rivaling firm. Don finally understands that Peggy isn’t a woman to toss aside, but she has made up her mind and leaves anyway. Peggy shows us time and again that she’s not the mousy, weak girl people take her for. She has to give up a lot of things, and she expects to get respect in return. She has my respect for sure!

Some strong female characters didn’t make my list because they’re portrayed as extremely crazy, headstrong, mentally ill, or narcissistic. A bit of quirkiness is fun, I mean, I think we all embrace strong females who are their odd eccentric selves. Being a little nutty or being ambitious is great, but I don’t want to encourage TV writers to portray strong women as inevitable lunatics. These fictional heroines are human beings who make mistakes, but don’t let these mistakes define who they are. They get up again and kick some ass. Surprise, we (women) can be normal functioning human beings and strong, self-assured, empowered, ambitious, witty, brave and heroic at the same time. Yes, some of us are indeed wonder women.

This list represents the strong female characters of shows I’ve watched, which means it is probably incomplete. If you feel like I missed some really important empowered female TV characters, please let me know in the comments below so I can check them out.

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My name is Lotte, I’m a Belgian journalism student and I have acquired quite a lot of obsessions over the years: reading, writing, film and theatre studies, travelling, baking, eating, indie music, and being annoyingly punctual (therefore, I also love notebooks and agendas).

9 thoughts on “Eight Empowered Female Television Characters

        1. Make sure you watch it 😉 You will like it, because it has A LOT of empowered women. Even the US President has been portrayed by a female actor. 🙂

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