I’m a bit of a theatre geek, but I’m way more of a film and television geek. I used to love movies way more than TV shows too, because I hated the feeling of having to wait every week and being kinda stuck in a weird routine. I don’t like the idea of having my life revolve around being in front of the TV at certain times each week. I want to just pick something when I feel like it!
When it first came out, I didn’t care about it because up to that point I really just never watched TV. But soon I gave in. (SO much cheaper than paying for cable, and no ads! Also, university life… Netflix was the ultimate procrastination tool!)
I’ve spent a lot of my evenings blogging in the past year, and a lot of the time I would do it while watching Netflix. I’ve watched a LOT of TV shows on there… and even shows on CTV since they stream so many of them from their website. Now I try to do my work at my desk since I’m taking it more seriously, but I still watch lots of shows when I get the chance… I mean, I started! How do you stop?!
And of course, while I enjoy shows like White Collar and Prison Break which are primarily about (beautiful) men, I have found a lot feminist TV shows that I absolutely love. The funny thing is, I keep getting surprised by them! I’ll start watching a show without expecting anything and then I’ll go “Whoa! That was a really feminist thing to do for the show!” or, “Dang! I love this character! She ain’t afraid of nothin’!” Why? Because I’m not used to seeing such awesomeness on screen!
So I thought I’d share with you my favourite feminist TV shows. Some are on Netflix and some aren’t, so you can still catch a few of them even if you happen not to have it!
In no particular order…
1. Jessica Jones
I freaking love this show. I wish there were another season! Jessica Jones is about a woman who has super-strength and is a private investigator. It starts with her dealing with PTSD after a man named Kilgrave, with the ability to control minds, had manipulated her and raped her over a long period of time. The man is back in town and is dedicated to getting her back no matter what the cost, and Jessica is obviously terrified. It’s fantastic — the characters are brilliant, and the fact that it deals directly with sexual assault made me so happy. The show came out around when I was finally facing my own issues with sexual assault and really spoke to me. I will say that while there are lesbian relationships in the show, they’re a bit oversexualized. Even so, I really enjoyed it! If you like Marvel, you’ll love this.
2. Stranger Things
A lot of people don’t think this show is feminist because it relies on the “grieving mother” trope and Nancy is shamed for her sexual activity. There’s something else as well, but I don’t want to spoil it — once you see it happen, feel free to comment and share what you think though.
But here’s why I think it’s still a feminist show. (There are a couple spoilers, but they aren’t too major.)
The fact that Joyce’s defining characteristic is how upset she is about her son doesn’t mean she’s not a good representation of women. The point of feminism is to allow women to be how they want to be and not have to be seen as weaker for it. She’s not a bad representation of women at all. And she is not weak in the show either – she is strong as hell! Her emotions drive her to fight while nobody listens to her. While everyone things she’s losing her mind, she shows determination to get what she wants and what she needs.
Plus, while Joyce is understandably emotionally shaken from losing her son and the strange things (ha) that keep happening around her, she is doing something about it instead of allowing the men in her life to take over. She’s the one taking action, even when people don’t believe in her. Sure, her lack of character development is a little bit of a concern – she doesn’t change a lot and there isn’t a lot we learn about her besides that she is upset about her son. So yes, she could be improved. But I don’t think that means that she is a bad representation of women, full stop.
The shaming of the teenage girls for their sexual activity was not off-putting to me because though it does happen, it’s how the characters react to it that makes a difference. Nancy doesn’t put up with Barb telling her she isn’t being herself. She doesn’t put up with creepy Jonathan Byers saying the same thing, and she isn’t okay with him taking pictures of her without her consent. (This is something that DEFINITELY needed to be addressed properly in the show, but the fact that Nancy didn’t brush it off is important.) And Carol and Tommy shaming Nancy for her sexual activities wasn’t framed as okay either – Steve, the guy Nancy gets with, gets angry with them for doing it.
The fact that the two are framed negatively by Barb because they were having sex at a young age is a little off-putting, but that’s not the main reason she doesn’t like them. Carol and Tommy are not nice people, regardless of whether they’re having sex or not. And if anything, Barb disliking them only because of their sexual activity just draws attention to that point of view in the first place, since Nancy is interested in sex and she’s feeling conflicted about it. Overall, I thought this was an accurate representation of what school is really like for teens – it’s showing the way that kids’ peers treat each other and how they feel about it, instead of acting like it’s normal. It shows that some people are unfairly judgmental and represents the double standard well.
Plus this show is clearly paying homage to 80s sci fi and horror, which isn’t known for being very feminist. I think Stranger Things does a great job challenging that!
I’ve only watched the first season, but wow I love this show! It’s perfectly cheesy tone works so well, and it’s so nice to see a another superhero show with a female lead – an adorable one at that!
One of my favourite parts of this show was the episode where Supergirl, whose real name is Kara, discusses with her boss Cat why the name Supergirl is feminist or not. Kara wants to be called “Superwoman” because “girl” is a little diminishing, but Cat points out that not wanting to be called a girl implies there’s something wrong with being a girl.
Awesome, right? I love that they addressed this! The show is very direct with its feminism. I do wish the cast were a little more diverse, though. Still, I love the show! You can find the first season on Netflix 🙂
4. Minority Report
I’m sad this show got cancelled. It’s so good! It has a woman of color as the lead, and in fact there’s another woman of color in the cast too. And a man of colour. Yay diversity!
The show is set in the future, and is a spinoff of the sci-fi movie Minority Report. In this future world, there are three people called “pre-cognitives” who can see the future. At a young age, they were forced to give up their lives to live in a “milk bath” that police used to see into their minds and stop murders before they happened. The program was shut down, and now the three are living freely, hidden from the world until one of them, Dash, goes to the city to try and stop murders himself. Along the way, he meets Detective Lara Vega, and they work together to stop murders.
The show does a great job of not sexualizing the female characters, including those characters of color. In general, it seems like the future they live in doesn’t have much sexism or racism, though there is classism – and that’s explored really well. I saw the movie a few years ago, so when I came across the series I was interested, especially since the lead is a woman of color. I wasn’t disappointed! Except for the fact it got cancelled. Sigh.
5. Veronica Mars
This is a classic that had to be included on this list! I have to admit I only watched it the first time this summer, and I LOVED it. It’s hilarious, witty, and is great at breaking down gender stereotypes and expectations – or at least, addressing them. It’s not perfect, with the main character shaming women for their sexual choices at times, and it does perpetuate some toxic masculinity. I was able to forgive it because well… it’s set in the
90s early 2000s.. Even though it wasn’t that long ago, it’s long enough to notice some cultural differences.
If you love mystery and quirky witty characters, definitely check out Veronica Mars! Did I mention it’s Kristen Bell?!
6. The Mindy Project
Okay, if you’re receiving my newsletter, you know I was going to be Mindy for Halloween. So of course I have to give her place on this list! (I didn’t end up dressing up as her though… I couldn’t find a stethoscope or lab coat in time! 😔 Next year though.)
Mindy is a doctor keen on finding her fairy tale happy ending. She’s confident, loud, doesn’t take no for an answer, and doesn’t let anyone control what she does – or who she does it with. She knows what she wants and she goes for it! Mindy fits the stereotypical chatty, gossipy, somewhat self-centred and socially awkward woman, but the show does a great job of showing that it does not make her less worthy to be that way. She has flaws like any well-rounded character (YAY) and it addresses that every woman deserves respect no matter what their background, and no matter with whom or how often they have sex.
And of course, she’s a woman of color who I can relate to for once. I didn’t think I’d like the show because I knew the character was this stereotypical type, but I tried it because she’s an Indian girl on TV and I never get to see that. And it reminded me that it’s possible to love someone even if they aren’t exactly what you want them to be. I mean, I’d rather be friends with someone who does care about things like poverty and how terrible the fashion industry is… but that doesn’t mean I can’t respect them.
Yup. You will learn from this show. Check it out on Netflix!
7. Gilmore Girls
I never got into this show, but I’m starting to now. It’s hilarious, witty, and heartwarming, with pop-culture references everywhere and speed-talking that only girls who know each other too well can do. It’s the classic girls’ show, and even passes the Bechdel Test every ten seconds. (Probably.) I love that Gilmore Girls explores what teenage pregnancy could mean for women later on in their life, and the relationships they might have. I also love how the show is all about women’s agency. It’s pretty direct with its feminism, and it’s fantastic!
Also on Netflix. And in case you missed it, they’re releasing a new series of the show about what the girls’ lives are like later on!
8. The L Word
I’ve never seen this one, but my sister used to watch it when I was in high school. She LOVED it. It is about a group of lesbian women, and is a show actually made by women too. The creators are even gay themselves! The show is about primarily white women, but hey – how many mainstream shows do you know that are specifically about gay people, and women at that? One step at a time. I’m definitely going to look for this one online – it’s not on Netflix 😔 at least, not the Canadian one.
Aaaaand that’s it for my favourite feminist TV shows! There are definitely a ton of other shows – Buffy and Firefly for example, though I haven’t seen either – but it’s just too many for me to know and watch all of them!
So, your turn.
What’s your favourite TV show? What am I missing? Share in the comments below!
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