15 TV Shows for When You Need a Strong Dose of Girl Power

TV Lists Girl Power
15 TV Shows for When You Need a Strong Dose of Girl Power

With Donald “grab ‘em by the pussy” Trump our next president and this year’s seemingly never-ending attack on women’s rights, reality is not a good place to be right now if you’re a woman. Sometimes, you just need a break from the endless stream of depressing news stories, and what better way to do so than spending an hour or two with some kick-ass on-screen ladies? From Jane the Virgin to Xena: Warrior Princess, here are 15 TV shows for when you need a strong dose of girl power.

15. Gilmore Girls
Years on air: 2000-2007, 2016
Watch on: Netflix

Gilmore Girls is the story of mother-daughter duo Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), who live in the storybook town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. After having Rory at the tender age of 16, Lorelai is the definition of “cool, young mom,” and this dramedy navigates the ups and downs of their close relationship with fast-paced dialogue and rapid-fire pop culture references. It also explores class and generational divides, mainly through Lorelai’s relationship with her own wealthy parents. The complicated relationships among the women in the series are the key to its success, as well as the chemistry between Graham, Bledel and Kelly Bishop, who plays Lorelai’s snobbish, appearance-obsessed mother, Emily.

Gilmore Girls has been criticized for its lack of minority actors, not to mention its privilege problem. It also has a tendency to gloss over difficult areas, but that’s part of its charm. Gilmore Girls is kind of the TV equivalent of a pumpkin spiced latte—light and frothy and guaranteed to perk you up—as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

14. The Mindy Project
Years on air: 2012-present
Watch on: Hulu

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The Mindy Project is a romantic comedy created by and starring Mindy Kaling. Inspired by her mother, The Mindy Project follows Kaling’s OB/GYN, Mindy Lahiri, as she attempts to balance both her private and professional life in New York City.

As well as being a successful woman in a male-dominated field, Mindy’s all about women’s health and an advocate of reproductive care. The series covers these complicated matters with ease, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Plus, Mindy is always herself—whether that means eating chicken wings or watching rom-coms— and embraces her femininity. She’s incredibly body-positive. Although she has issues with her appearance, Mindy doesn’t let them define her. Basically, she’s her own role model, and that’s a lesson most of us still need to learn.

13. American Horror Story: Coven
Years on air: 2013-2014
Watch on: Netflix, Hulu

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The third season of FX’s horror anthology series follows a group of witches as they fight for survival in the modern world. It’s a perfect example of what can happen when you pit women against each other—and why you shouldn’t. (Defend the sisterhood!) But it’s also full of well-rounded, powerful female characters and features matriarchal hierarchy led by scream queen Jessica Lange.

Whether you love or hate its unconventional methods, Coven is also pretty good at featuring underrepresented groups. Case in point: Nan (Jamie Brewer) is a clairvoyant witch who can read the thoughts of others. Her Down syndrome is never mentioned, and Nan is treated the same as her classmates—fellow young witches—at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Girls, a cover for the coven’s activities. It also flips anti-women tropes on the head, such as Zoe’s (Taissa Farmiga) “killer vagina,” a metaphor for the demonization of a female sexuality, and the idea that women are objects.

12. Girls
Years on air: 2012-present
Watch on: HBO, HBO Go

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Girls follows aspiring writer Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) and her friends Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) as they attempt to make it in the real world—trials and tribulations inspired by creator and star Dunham’s own life experiences, which she describes as “navigating her twenties one mistake at a time.”

Girls isn’t a perfect show. It’s come under fire on several occasions for its lily-white cast, as well as its tendency to bolster its weaker storylines with shock value (the episode “On All Fours” is best forgotten). Still, while Hannah might not be the “voice of a generation” that she claims to be, Girls does get a lot right about everything from awkward one-night-stands to breaking into the job market—all while remaining consistently funny.

The series also refuses to gloss over difficult subject matter. (In its first season alone, Girls tackled abortion, STDs and sexual harassment.) Even though it sometimes strays into outlandish territory, at its core, Girls is all about girls.

11. Broad City
Years on air: 2014-present
Watch on: Hulu, Comedy Central

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Comedy Central isn’t a network known for highbrow programming, but Broad City is a goldmine of hilarity. Originally a web series, Broad City revolves around pals Abbi Abrams (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana Wexler (Ilana Glazer), two twentysomethings living in Brooklyn.

Ilana is a “weed enthusiast” who tries to avoid anything resembling hard work and usually gets herself into ridiculous situations; Abbi is trying to build a career as an illustrator, all while getting wrapped up in Ilana’s ridiculous schemes. Alone and together, the two struggle to find a balance between becoming adults and maintaining their carefree spirit. But what makes Broad City so awesome is its terrifically funny portrait of the everyday struggles of young women: It’s real-life feminism in action, and it’s so damn relatable.

10. Jane the Virgin
Years on air: 2014-present
Watch on: Netflix, The CW

Jane the Virgin is a romantic comedy/drama/telenovela about Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez), a religious, 23-year-old virgin who becomes pregnant after being accidentally inseminated by her OB/GYN. After finding out that the father, rich hotel owner Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni), is a cancer survivor, and this is probably his only chance to have a biological child, Jane decides to carry the baby to term—despite the tension it causes between her and her detective fiancé, Michael (Brett Dier).

Although Jane the Virgin is a satire of the cheesy tactics usually employed in soap operas, that doesn’t mean it can’t handle difficult topics such as abortion, teen pregnancy, class and immigration, which is does with its unique brand of over-the-top humor. It also has a diverse cast, from its Latina lead to Israeli actress Yael Grobglas. Plus, no matter what happens (freak pregnancy, love triangles, Jane finding out her absent father is a famous telenovela star), our heroine never wavers from her convictions, which is impressive considering all the crazy shit that seems to go down in her life.

9. Xena: Warrior Princess
Years on air: 1995-2001
Watch on: Hulu

“In a time of ancient Gods, Warlords and Kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero… She was Xena.”

Xena (Lucy Lawless) was one of ‘90s TV’s greatest bad-asses. With a penchant for leather and sharp objects, the reformed warlord and her bestie, Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor), travelled around Ancient Greece using their formidable fighting skills to help the helpless.
But the fact that it was led by a strong woman wasn’t the only thing that made Xena so special. Xena was also very, very queer, and the fans loved it!
Since it was the ‘90s, Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship was all about subtext. But in the upcoming reboot, in development at NBC, Xena is out and proud. And, according to executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, after more than 20 years, Xena and Gabrielle have finally made it official.

An action-adventure series with two strong, queer women leading the way? Who could say no to that?

8. Veronica Mars
Years on air: 2004-2007
Watch on: Amazon Video

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Teen neo-noir drama Veronica Mars focuses on, you guessed it, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), a high school student and part-time private investigator in the fictional town of Neptune, California. After the murder of her best friend, Lilly (Amanda Seyfried), Veronica, with the help of her detective dad, is determined to find her killer—even if this means leaving her carefree life as one of the popular rich kids behind.

In addition to seeking justice for her friend, Veronica is fighting her own demons. After being drugged and raped at a party, she spends much of her time trying to regain control of her life and rebuild her self-esteem. Still, she doesn’t just search for answers: She demands them, ditching the traditional concept of how a “victim” should behave. And she’s not the only woman in Neptune breaking stereotypes. There’s Veronica’s new best pal, tech whiz Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie (Tina Majorino), who uses her impressive code cracking and hacking skills to assist her friend on cases.

7. How to Get Away with Murder
Years on air: 2014-present
Watch on: Netflix, Hulu, ABC

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Ever since How to Get Away with Murder (HTGAWM) joined Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal in ABC’s Thursday-night lineup (#TGIT), the series has been unmissable—as least, that is, for Emmy-winner Viola Davis’ performance as law professor Annalise Keating, who along with five of her students becomes embroiled in a murder plot. (Davis was the first black woman to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.)

Keating has never let the patriarchy get her down. A big-shot lawyer as well as a lecturer at the prestigious Middleton University, she’s worked her way up from humble beginnings to acquire not only money, but also respect. She’s the kind of teacher that brings out the best in her students: Filled with righteous fire, Keating demands results, and it works thanks to Davis’ intimidating yet hypnotic performance.

6. The X-Files
Years on air: 1993-2002, 2016
Watch on: Netflix, Hulu

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Yes, The X-Files is a sci-fi drama about two FBI agents investigating aliens and other paranormal phenomena, but it’s so much more than that. Not wanting to adhere to traditional gender stereotypes, creator Chris Carter made Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) the believer and Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) the skeptic, basing her conclusions on her keen scientific and medical knowledge. She’s the levelheaded foil to Mulder’s more whimsical personality, openly questioning his decisions and remaining objective in cases where he is incapable of doing so.

Besides being mentally strong and independent, Scully could also hold her own against the bad guys: She and Mulder were a team, and she didn’t rely on him to come to her rescue when things got troublesome. Anderson also fought for women’s rights off screen. After three seasons of being paid only half of what Duchovny made, Anderson refused to accept less than what she deserved and demanded more money, which she got. (No one says no to Dana Scully.)

5. Orange is the New Black
Years on air: 2013-present
Watch on: Netflix

Loosely based on Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange is the New Black: My Life in a Women’s Prison, Orange is the New Black (OITNB) follows Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) after she’s sentenced to 15 months in prison for carrying drugs on behalf of her smuggler ex-girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon). The crime occurred a decade before Piper’s indictment, and in the time since, she’s become a law-abiding citizen with a steady job and fiancé Larry (Jason Biggs). But OITNB soon moves beyond the subject of the disruption prison causes in privileged Piper’s life, introducing us to the vast range of women she’s incarcerated with.

Created by Jenji Kohan, the series has been praised for its depiction of race, sexuality and gender. OITNB made trans performer Laverne Cox a household name, and the love triangle between Piper, Larry and Alex is only its first representation of the fluidity of sexuality. In addition to showing that women come in all colors, shapes and sizes, OITNB humanizes our oft-invisible prison population, exploring the tragicomic backgrounds of its diverse cast, from Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Emmy winner Uzo Aduba) to prison chef and former mob wife Red (Kate Mulgrew).

4. Daria
Years on air: 1997-2002
Watch on: Hulu

The angst-ridden lead, the riot grrl theme song, the boots—when it comes to strong female characters, Daria is queen. Set in the suburb of Lawndale, misfit Daria (voiced by Tracy Grandstaff) and her arty best friend, Jane (Wendy Hoopes), spend their days battling it out against the more “well-adjusted” types at the local high school—including Daria’s popular sister, Quinn (also voiced by Hoopes), and Quinn’s pals in Fashion Club—while her loving yet clueless parents attempt to teach her about life in the background.

Although originally a spinoff of Beavis and Butt-head, Daria went on to become one of MTV’s highest-rated shows, lasting for five seasons and spawning two feature-length films. The animated Daria described the teenage experience more accurately than many live-action series on air the ‘90s: Forget Dawson’s Creek or 90210, sarcastic, sardonic Daria tells it like it is. Or, as creator Glenn Eichler put it, “I think part of it is, she says things everybody else wishes they could say but are too polite to, or too socialized.”

What makes Daria one-of-a-kind wasn’t her cynicism or “don’t give a fuck” attitude, though, but the fact that she was perfectly comfortable with being different. She never tried to change who she was to fit in, and 20 years later, that’s still something we could do with a little more of on TV.

All together now: “NA NA NA NA NA…”

3. Pitch
Years on air: 2016-present
Watch on: Hulu, Fox

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Pitch follows young pitcher Genevieve “Ginny” Baker (Kylie Bunbury), a rookie who becomes the first woman to play Major League Baseball. Famous for her “screwball pitch,” Ginny is pulled up from the minors to play for the San Diego Padres. Fox’s drama explores her struggle to prove herself to her teammates, most of whom don’t appreciate having a girl on the squad, as well as Ginny’s back story—featuring her overly ambitious, controlling father (Michael Beach).

What makes Pitch so gripping is its realism. Creators Dan Fogelman and Rick Singer and director Paris Barclay have considered every possible angle of what it would be like for a woman to enter an all-male sport, from the media mayhem and the backlash from sports bros to the pressure to be an inspiration for others. Warning: It’s a tearjerker!

2. Jessica Jones
Years on air: 2015-present
Watch on: Netflix

Marvel’s Jessica Jones follows a former superhero who opens her own New York City detective agency, Alias Investigations. But Ms. Jones (Krysten Ritter) isn’t your standard Good Samaritan. Running from a dark past, Jessica is battling post-traumatic stress disorder while trying to rebuild her life as a private investigator. Inspired by 1940s noir, the series presents a darker worldview than many others in the Marvel canon, and covers topics such as rape, drug addiction and murder. It’s also rather bloody, which may shock those more accustomed to the Marvel’s PG-13 creations.

Rather than trying to save the world, Jessica just wants to survive each day—something many of us can relate to. After her first attempt at being a do-gooder ended in tragedy, she’s full of self-loathing and hitting the bottle, but she still manages to use her superhuman abilities (enhanced strength, limited flying) to help others. It’s great to see a female character that is multifaceted, damaged and vulnerable, all while proving she can still handle the world around her and not give into societal pressures. She’s determined to get justice, but she’s not sure how. The adventure of Jessica Jones is finding out.

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Years on air: 1997-2003
Watch on: Netflix, Hulu

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Every generation, a slayer is born—to inspire a new generation of little girls to kick ass! For those who don’t know (but seriously, where’ve you been?!) Buffy the Vampire Slayer focuses on Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Geller), a typical teenager who lives a double life as a vampire slayer. Created by the now-legendary Joss Whedon, Buffy is chock full of strong female characters, both good and evil—from Buffy’s shy, super-intelligent best friend, Willow (Alyson Hannigan), to nutty psychic vamp Drusilla (Juliet Landau). Its clever use of metaphor (high school is hell) and complex character development helped to reshape genre TV in the ‘90s and early ‘00s.

But Buffy was revolutionary for another reason—Willow and Tara (Amber Benson) were one of the first lesbian relationships on network television. The WB wouldn’t allow Whedon to portray any physical intimacy between the pair on-screen, so he used subtext (although let’s be honest, it really isn’t very subtle). Still, Buffy was progressive in the sense that it treated their relationship in the same way as any other couple in the series’ canon (and, unlike Xena, it actually admitted they were a couple). Whether exploring sexuality or battling demons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a celebration of exceptional women—flaws and all.

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