6 feminist TV shows you should go binge watch now

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:

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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Author: Rebecca Griffin

I am a passionate advocate for progressive causes with over a decade of experience organizing for social change. That organizing experience informs the way I look at the world and the challenges we face in working toward social justice. I started Of Means and Ends to write about social issues I care about and share my thoughts on how we organize in a smart, strategic way. Please visit and join the conversation.

20 thoughts on “6 feminist TV shows you should go binge watch now”

  1. ‘Orange is the New Black” is a must see because of the huge cast of women characters, most of whom are of color and most of whom do not fit the usual narrow definitions of Hollywood beauty. The show is billed as a comedy. There is indeed a comic element, but it seems more serious to me than comic. The characters are all multi-dimensional and we see complicated relationships among the women.

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  2. In the same vein as your thoughts on Battlestar Galactica, I enjoyed any of the Star Trek series (particularly Deep Space 9 and Voyager) for showing without comment that men and women are both capable of leadership, physical combat, and working through various emotional issues.

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  3. Thanks Becca. We’ve been looking for a quality tv show. ONTNB and House of Cards have been pleasures that I do feel guilty about watching.

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  4. Good recommendations. I think I’ll have to skip out on the Danish show unless I want to lose my internet access (ahem). I would add The Killing and also my favorite all-time feminist show, The Rockford Files. Jim Rockford was awesome and the show featured a million different great female roles, including that of his attorney. Plus it’s the 70s, man!

    Top of the Lake–the only thing I didn’t like about it was that it ended. I was the same as you regarding Friday Night Lights. How can I love a show about football AND Texas? ‘Cos it was fabulous! I occasionally caught the show on television and then binge-watched it a few times in the obvious place.

    I’ll try to get back into The Fall. Thanks.

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    1. Interesting, I’ve never heard much about the Rockford Files. I’ll have to check that out.

      Hopefully enough people will be interested in Borgen that it will become available. I watched it on the LinkTV website, but they don’t have it up anymore. Hulu has been good about getting international shows, including the Danish original of The Bridge, so maybe it will be up there someday.

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      1. Rockford Files starred James Garner, who just died this year. You’re probably too young to remember the show, but I’m sure it’s on Hulu. I just looked up Borgen on Netflix. It’s available by dvd, but I just stream. I’ll try the other suggestions based on my interest in Borgen and write in the meantime and ask them to make it available. There’s a female investigator series out of Sweden that was done by the same folks that did Wallender. Cheers.

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      2. That sounds like a good one. I just watched the first season of The Bletchley Circle on Netflix, about female codebreakers after World War II who catch a serial killer who is attacking women. Recommended!

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  5. Adding to your list: 1) “Saving Grace,” starring Holly Hunter as Oklahoma City PD homicide detective, Grace Hanadarko, with strong appearances from her siblings and colleagues, about ten years after that city’s horrifying bombing, who has her own gruff, hard-drinking guardian angel (Leon Rippy) and a host of other excellent characters, including Lorraine Toussaint as the Captain and Laura San Giacomo as the M.E. and Grace’s best friend; 2) “Unforgettable,” another police drama with a great female lead played by Poppy Montgomery, based on the true experiences of a person who never forgets anything (as rare as that it is, it happens): she’s bold, tough, funny, smart, tender, excellent at her job and independent; 3) “Old Tricks,” another BBC police drama with its strong female lead played by Tamzin Outhwaite, recently, and played by Amanda Redman, originally. She leads a team of older, “retired” cops (she’s middle-aged) through cold cases with intelligence, humor, strength, wit and fire.

    Yeah; I know. All crime dramas. Well, there’s always “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.” Appreciate her, Willow, all of those characters, especially the women. LOVE Joss Whedon, famous for retorting, when asked “Why do you write such strong female characters?” “Because you’re still asking that question!”

    Best to you,

    Sally

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