10 current TV series with strong female characters

May 31 2017, 3:46 am

Hollywood is in the midst of an uncomfortable revelation. Strong women in nuanced, multi-faceted roles are suddenly a viable box office option—who knew?

While big blockbuster studios are still treading on relatively new ground, TV and online streaming services have pushed ahead in the race, building a collection of binge-worthy shows with strong female narratives.

Ranging from genres as diverse as comedy, sci-fi, and drama, women are breaking out in front and behind the cinematographic lens. In many of the shows listed below, women not only pass the Bechdel Test, but shatter it with flying colours.

Here is our list of 10 current series with strong female characters.

See also

Note: light plot spoilers for all of the shows listed.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Hulu

Image: Hulu

Where: Bravo
Status: Season 1 currently airing until June

Hulu’s new it-show is a much-needed boost for the streaming platform, which has always played second-fiddle to Netflix. The Handmaid’s Tale is a bleak and realistic update of Margaret Atwood’s seminal 1985 novel (which is also currently topping book charts). The series keeps the lens focused on women living under a new dystopian regime, from Elisabeth Moss’ powerless Handmaid to Yvonne Strahovski’s silenced Commander’s Wife to (Canadian!) Amanda Brugel’s glorified housekeeper. What’s left unsaid is as important as the spoken dialogue, as Handmaid moves to wrap a striking first season later this month.

Big Little Lies – HBO

Image: HBO

Where: HBO
Status: Season 1 completed

This HBO miniseries stars some of the biggest names from the silver screen, including Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. The series begins examining the unfathomable, intricate relationships between wealthy Monterey housewives. Big Little Lies quickly supplants Desperate Housewives-expectations to reveal powerful on-screen depictions of domestic violence, infidelity, and other socially awkward topics. Series standout is undoubtedly Kidman (who’s also an executive producer), finally getting a chance to bite into a role that Hollywood, up until recently, has refused to give her.

Search Party – TBS

Image: TBS

Where: Canadian release date TBD
Status: Season 1 completed

“Here’s something that no one saw coming”—we bet most women have heard a variation of this phrase at least once in their lives. In typical stealth-attack fashion, Search Party’s sharp, satirical writing made it an instant guilty pleasure hit about the lives of twenty-somethings. Just like Girls, it’s stacked with a host of blatantly unsympathetic characters, led by main heroine Dory (Alia Shawkat). And that’s where the similarities end, as Search Party accomplishes more in its beginning strokes than most millennial comedies do over multiple seasons. Ending with a genre-bending cliffhanger, we’re waiting on bated breath for this too-accurate modern essay about our stupid, stupid twenties.

Veep – HBO

Image: HBO

Where: HBO
Status: Season 5 currently airing until June

Hail, the new TV Queen. Five seasons in, Veep is just as fresh and relevant now, thanks to comedian Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ masterful turn as past (Vice) President of the United States. The improvisational talents of the cast get better and better with each episode, diving into the worst of human behaviour and public politics. But it’s 100% Louis-Dreyfus’ show, and settles the question once and for all: yes, women can be funny and wildly inappropriate at the same time, thanks very much.

Insecure – HBO

Image: HBO

Where: HBO
Status: Season 1 completed

We’ll be the first to admit that the new wave of TV girl power is skewed towards white, slim, beautiful women. Insecure, then, is one of the most important series on this list. Not because of its protagonist is female, Black, or curvy—but because Insecure is irrefutably one of the funniest things on TV at the moment. Blending cheeky stereotypes with hilarious buzzwords (“side N—–” is our fav), Insecure is finely crafted race politics wrapped up in pure entertainment.

The Expanse – Syfy

Image: Syfy

Where: Space
Status: Season 1 completed

The TV adaptation of a series of sci-fi novels under the same name, The Expanse is one of the slickest-looking shows on air, thanks to a huge visual effects budget. There are several nuanced female characters on both sides of an intergalactic war, along with a host of guys who don’t quite fit the usual molds of masculinity. The Expanse has at least one more season to pull it all together, but the raw elements are there for a modern-day space epic, featuring men and women.

Orange is the New Black – Netflix

Image: Netflix

Where: Netflix
Status: Season 5 premieres June 9

There was a time when “that Netflix show about lesbian women prisoners” was a one-season wonder. We’re pleased to announce, days from Season 5 dropping on the streaming service, that OITNB is back on our list to watch. The pivotal turn came when the show stopped focusing on those aforementioned sorta lesbians, Piper and Alex, and shifted towards the supporting cast of women from different backgrounds. Read: not white, young, middle-class, and/or classically beautiful. We’re starting to notice a trend here…

Orphan Black – Temple Street Productions

Image: Temple Street Productions

Where: Space
Status: Season 5 premieres June 10

Orphan Black has been going strong for quite some time, and this summer will see its fifth and final season. The proudly Canadian sci-fi thriller (primarily filmed in and around Toronto), will wrap up an intriguing story about clones and genetic engineering. Talented Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany plays all of the clones, which range from suburban soccer moms to manic feral experiments.

Game of Thrones – HBO

Image: Game of Thrones

Where: HBO
Status: Season 7 premieres July 16

Let’s stop for a moment and marvel at the number of women occupying major roles in the quasi-medieval-masterpiece-with-dragons of our time. GOT is not without its flaws, chief among them the ongoing depictions of violence and the lack of diversity among the main cast. Still, heading into the final two seasons of the show, our remaining heroines range from Daenerys, Sansa and Ayra Stark, Cersei Lannister, Melisandre, and the unlikely partnership of Olenna Tyrell and Ellaria Sand. All represent different types of women, with a variety of motivations and journeys that led them to this point.

House of Cards – Netflix

Image: Netflix

Where: Netflix
Status: Season 5 premiered June 30

On the surface, Frank and Claire Underwood receive equal star billing for House of Cards. However, it’s always been Spacey’s game, not hers. During the power shift of the last season, we’re hoping that Claire Underwood comes into her own this time around. She’s waited long enough for it.

Bonus: A New Hope – Star Trek: Discovery

Where: Space
Status: Season 1 premieres fall 2017

We’re blatantly mixing franchises here, but that’s because Trekkies are taking this way too seriously. In case you haven’t heard, the blow-over is due to the casting of Asian and Black actors in major roles, including Michelle Yeoh in the role of a ship’s captain. This edition of Star Trek is set to be the most diverse the franchise has ever seen, and we’re hoping it’ll come with a solid, innovative story to hook us in.

Cecilia LuCecilia Lu

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