We have amazing access to so much culture right now that we can choose television shows that give us interesting, nuanced roles for women and compelling examinations of gender issues. When I get excited about a movie or a TV show, I like to evangelize, and I’m sure I could make a very long list. To start, here are 6 feminist TV shows you should check out:
- Top of the Lake. This miniseries created by feminist director Jane Campion is a great vehicle for Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss. She plays a detective in New Zealand investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant girl. It also features Holly Hunter as the leader of a community of women who have set up camp on a piece of land they call “Paradise.” It’s full of fascinating female characters and interesting takes on abuse of women and relationships.
- Orphan Black.Chances are you’ve heard a lot of people, especially feminists, singing the praises of this show. The amazing Tatiana Maslany plays a slew of characters in this sci-fi series, and imbues each and every one with depth and nuance. Aside from just being fun to watch and bursting with compelling female characters, the show has lot of interesting things to say about bodily autonomy and control over women.
- Borgen. This one might be a little harder to track down, but it’s worth the effort. This Danish show follows Birgitte Nyborg, a politician who unexpectedly becomes Denmark’s first female prime minister. There is lots of intrigue for political nerds like me as we watch Birgitte navigate the parliamentary system and try to move her agenda. There’s a bit of progressive political fantasy in seeing politicians promote policies that wouldn’t have a chance in the US (though I don’t love all her policy decisions). Aside from the political maneuvering, we also see gender issues play out through work/life balance for Birgitte and the husband who has put her career ahead of his own. Birgitte is one of many prominent female characters, including Katrine, a rising star in journalism.
- Battlestar Galactica. One of the most remarkable things about Ronald D. Moore’s reboot of the 70s sci-fi series is the way he casts women in roles that had would usually be held by men. (One of the actors from the original series put out a crazy rant about how horrible the newly “feminized” show is–if this guy hates it, it must be great.) While there are plots related to issues particularly to women, such as control over reproduction, what’s particularly refreshing is to watch a show where it’s just accepted that mechanics, the president, the best fighter pilot are women and it’s not even commented upon. In addition to watching kickass women in action, there’s fascinating plot and political allegory addressing the Iraq war, torture and more.
- The Fall. This British series about a serial killer is probably the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen (spoken as someone who avoids scary movies like the plague). If you’re tired of shows featuring women as victims of violence, this might not be the show for you. Unlike many crime shows, you know who the killer is and watch him and the team working to catch him in tandem. It’s worth recommending for the fantastic performance by Gillian Anderson as the gruff, highly competent detective in charge of the case who is also unapologetic about her sexuality.
- Friday Night Lights. I really didn’t think I’d ever get into a show about football. I will admit to both getting bored during some of the pure football parts and to tearing up unexpectedly at football victories. One of the things this show is best known for is its portrayal of a strong, happy marriage between Coach Taylor and his wife Tami. Tami is a wonderful role model and asserts herself in her relationship while also being a supportive spouse. The parents have good, frank discussions about sex with teenagers, and the show handles an abortion subplot in a compassionate, realistic way that is far too rare on television.
What are your favorite feminist TV shows? Share your recommendations in the comments.