I’ve been watching a lot of television lately. The past couple of years I’ve had a television schedule, originally surrounding Scandal and The Office, but now there are so many shows that I’m watching, three of which are on the same day, so I have to find ways to watch all of my shows while also having a life.
However, this post is not about my strategies for being able to watch all my shows, my binging habits, or my conscious effort to not get hooked on any more shows. There has been an increase of diverse representations of women in television. While mainstream portrayals of female characters are not perfect, there is still a number of great characters. Here are my top five female characters from my favorite shows, in no particular order.
Arya Stark (Game of Thrones, HBO)
Next to Jon Snow, Arya has always been my favorite character on Game of Thrones. It has been interesting to see her struggle with not wanting to be a lady and going against the idea of what constitutes her value in Westerosi society. At the same time, she has to deal with the murders of her family members, forcing her to grow up much faster than a kid should have to. She seems to handle it as well as she can, becoming a killer in her own right and striving to take revenge on the people who put her in this situation in the first place. One of my favorite aspects of her journey is when she joins the House of Black and White and learns to become someone with no face. It reinforces the theme of her having to become a different person in order to survive and to enact her revenge. I love Arya because she always finds a way to deal with her issues, and at such a young age.
Jane Villanueva (Jane the Virgin, CW)
I’ve only just started watching Jane the Virgin, and thank goodness for Netflix-enabled binge watching. I sped through the first season and am now watching season 2 live. The main character Jane is the best thing about this show. She’s quirky, intelligent, and disciplined, and is constantly challenged by the curveballs that come her way (the least of which being her becoming accidentally artificially inseminated with a stranger’s sperm). At the same time, Jane is unwilling to let all of the challenges she faces get in the way of her dreams and goals. She is committed to not changing who she is for the comfort of others. While at times she can be over the top, ultimately, she is a good person who thinks for herself. Another great thing about her is that she does not shrink from who she is for the men in her life. She is in the middle of a love triangle with her ex-fiancé and the father of her child but rather than stressing over who she will choose (though she does ultimately need to make a decision) she does what’s best for her and focuses on herself and her son.
Mellie Grant (Scandal, ABC)
I haven’t always liked Mellie Grant, the First Lady of the United States and now Senator of Virginia on Scandal. A lot of the time she is jealous, vindictive, and fake, but as the show goes on it is clear that she has good reason to be. My love of Mellie has increased along with my dislike of her (ex) husband, President Grant. As the seasons of this show have gone on and we’ve seen how irritating and horrible Fitz is, we’ve also been able to see how much Mellie has gone through in order to support him in obtaining and keeping the presidency. Fitz is really terrible to her, always blaming her for his own shortcomings and pitfalls, and even when she is at fault, her motivations are often looking out for Fitz’s best interests. While I’m not as excited about Scandal as I have been in the past, this season Mellie has been my favorite character. She is working extremely hard to make a name for herself and get out from under Fitz’s shadow. At the same time, she is not only working through the pain of losing her son, but also of knowing that her husband is having an affair and still being in love with him. Having to reconcile all of the things she has done for Fitz while he completely disrespects her is not an easy things to do, but Mellie does her best while also ascending in politics herself.
Missy (Doctor Who, BBC)
WARNING: This has spoilers for seasons 8 and 9 of Doctor Who, so if you haven’t watched them yet (and are planning to), skip down to the next character!
Missy is my favorite character in Peter Capaldi’s run as the Doctor. She is the latest regeneration of the Doctor’s long time friend and enemy, the Master. Even though she is essentially a villain in the show, I love her so much. She is wacky and ridiculous, her comedic timing is amazing, and her relationship with the Doctor is really interesting. Season 9 of Doctor Who focuses on the theme of blurred lines between friends and enemies. The Doctor and the Master have known each other for hundreds of years, since their days as children on Gallifrey, and grew up together as friends. They ended up going different ways, the Master far more interested in ruling the universe than traveling it, and therefore have had a lot of clashes. But even still, they are/were close friends, and the last of their kind. Missy’s characterization fits this theme very well. While Doctor Who has always been male-dominated (and it’s writers have a really hard time writing female characters), Missy is one of the best things about the latest run of the show. She is much more complicated and interesting than most of the characters on the show and I love when she turns up. #GetMissyATardis2K1
Annalise Keating (How To Get Away With Murder, ABC)
I feel like How To Get Away With Murder is in it’s sweet spot right now in season 2. One of the most perplexing things about the show is the fact that Annalise’s house and business has pretty much become a murder cult fronting as a law firm as well as how exactly they’re going to get away with all this murder. Though I originally started watching the show for Alfred Enoch (aka Dean Thomas from Harry Potter), Viola Davis is what keeps me watching. Her portrayal of main character Annalise Keating is amazing. Annalise is not exactly a likable character, but she is written in a way that makes you root for her, even as she is covering up murder. It is clear that Annalise has worked hard for her success, even if she has done some illegal things, and I love how strong and focused she is. At the same time, she doesn’t fall victim to the Strong Black Female stereotype as she is often allowed to breakdown in private even if she feels she has to maintain a front in public. I love how she is humanized, having to deal with the fact that her actions have caused problems and grief for many others and hating herself for it, but continuing to do her best. It’s always interesting to watch people who have good intentions fall into doing horrible things, and while the show focuses a lot on this theme through the eyes of her students, I feel Annalise is having a similar struggle. Because she is the adult and their boss, she is often blamed for the things that go on, but it isn’t as if she is planning for these things to happen. She is just as unprepared as the rest of her staff, but is able to come up with solutions to their problems.
As I was writing this, I was able to think of even more female characters that I love, but I’ll leave it here for now. If you want, you can let me know who your favorites are, feel free to tweet me, or comment below.