So lately I've been reading a lot about feminism and pop culture and thinking about how my favorite female leads on TV portray women/womenhood/femininity/power.
One of my all-time favorite shows, of course, is Xena: Warrior Princess. The arguably better and more influential spin off from the sentimental macho-fest that was Hercules: the Legendary Journeys. Although I didn't watch either of these shows while in syndication, I got really into Xena the summer before 8th grade, when I watched reruns obsessively on Oxygen. I love Xena as a character because she has a complicated past, shows that female sexuality can be postive (a lot of female villains are portrayed as super-sexual, whereas female protagonists are often less sexual), and has a strong relationship with another female character. (I think often female characters are given a male best friend to have that like... tension thing and stuff... and because TV networks tend to shy away from putting too many female characters on screen at once.) It's funny and campy, and since I started watching 7 years ago, it's never gotten old.
Temperence Brennan aka "Bones" of Bones is another one of my faves. She's a foresic anthropologist who helps the FBI solve murders. She's also super smart, funny, pretty, and strong. Although she occasionally needs saving from her (sexy) FBI partner Seeley Booth, she consistently punches out serial killers and murders who try and pull one on her. Also on Bones are two of my other favorite female TV characters: Angela Montenegro, the lab's forensic artist and computer wiz, who is also a free-spirit and comic foil to Bone's cluelessness about human nature, and Dr. Camille Saroyan, the head of the forensic division at the lab, and recent adoptive-single mother. All three women are ridiculously intelligent, pretty, and interesting characters who break both TV social convention with their top-level scientific jobs as well as their strong presence as female characters. I, for one, cannot relate to the female characters that writers let fade into the background, so I'm glad that the writers of Bones are breakin' down patriarchal TV barriers.
So, basically I am an idiot, because for YEARS I have been hearing about how much people love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and haven't done anything about it. Finally, after reading yet another feminist commendation of the series' feminist values, I decided to watch it. I'm around halfway throught the first season on Netflix... and I love it! It has all the campy fun of Xena, but modern, and about teenagers. Not only is Buffy strong-willed, smart mouthed, a skilled fighter, and good friend, but her friend Willow is also smart, a computer wiz, and an actual female character that Buffy can be friends with! It's great, and I wish I'd started watching a long time ago, although I do enjoy the fact that I can see it all for the first time now.
Ah, Liz Lemon of 30 Rock. Weekly I clutch my stomach and roll around in laughter because of you. Liz Lemon, along with crazy Jenna Maroney, is yet another reminder that women can be funny too. Comedy is waaay too often dominated by men, and if you got anything from the Betty White episode of SNL, it should be that the female comics make that show funny. 30 Rock is both hilarious beyond belief. It's a mix of high-brow and slapstick humor, political comentary and societal satire that is supah-funny. And while Liz Lemon is sucessful, she's also neurotic, weird, nerdy, and an owner of a snuggie. I'm glad that there is a show were funny female characters get their dues.
Sue Sylvester! Possibly one of the funniest TV characters of all time, male or female. She's the evil, competitive cheerleading coach from Glee who consistently has the funniest lines and steals scenes. To boot, she's played by the supah-funny lesbian comedian Jane Lynch, who has also stolen scenes as insane characters in comedies like Best in Show, the 40-Year-old Virgin, Talladega Nights and Role Models. Cheers to you, Sue Sylvester, for pushing the boundaries of the hilarity of the elusive One Liner. Keep up the good work.