Top 5 Female Television Characters
We’re not fully there yet, but writers and directors are far more willing to give women more prominent and leading roles than they were 30 years ago.There have been many great female characters in television history, but as the development of women characters in TV/film has improved, they’ve only gotten more complex. So, this list will be mostly recently created characters (of the past 15 years).
- Martha Powell (Black Mirror)
I’d like to commend Charlie Brooker, creator of Black Mirror, for being of one of the best at writing female television characters today. I was tempted to make this whole list from Black Mirror because of how each actress is given such an interesting path in their role. The best example of this is Martha Powell who, like every Black Mirror character, only appears in one episode. In this episode, “Be Right Back,” we’re taken through a journey of emotions. When I read the description of this episode (which I actually wouldn’t recommend doing for Black Mirror because it’s best to go in knowing nothing), I was worried because I didn’t think I, or any smart person, would ever use the technology in the plot. Therefore, I wouldn’t be able to follow the main character, knowing she would use it. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that at the start of the episode, Martha Powell is just as against the technology as I was. And she had understandable reasons for using it. I don’t want to give away what it is to anyone who hasn’t seen “Be Right Back.” Charlie Brooker and Hayley Atwell, the actress of Martha, did such an amazing job with her motivations, flaws, and charisma. She shows her charisma by displaying both a lighter side when she’s joking around with her boyfriend, and a darker side when struggling with dark choices. You really feel for her. I think this is because her flaw is so relatable. Getting consumed by a technology is something we can all relate to and this episode takes that to an extreme. The ending is completely tragic and Atwell’s great performance makes it even more painful to watch.
- Jane Margolis (Breaking Bad)
It was hard to choose between Jane and another Breaking Bad female, Skyler White. I think I chose Jane because of how fresh she is as a character. A good person living in a drug addict’s body has been done before. However, there’s something about what kind of person she turns into on drugs that fascinates me. She becomes manipulative and cruel in order to get what she wants. And it’s depressing because she tries really hard to be a good person but manages to falter often. The actress, Krysten Ritter, does a good job at shaping her character. She commits herself to the character arc of Jane. I never thought I was watching an actress playing a drug addict. I just thought I was watching a drug addict. Her relationship with my favorite character in the show, Jesse Pinkman, never managed to bore me. Actually it was the opposite. I looked forward to watching them grow and change together. The ending of her story was traumatic, but is also part of the reason the show is so perfect.
- Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)
She’s one of the most cynical television villains of all time. But anyone can do horrible things to people. So what sets Cersei apart? Besides Lena Headey’s portrayal and the smart decisions the character makes, she cares for her family, or at least who she considers her family. That might not seem like much but it is. She literally doesn’t care in the slightest about anyone else besides her brother Jaime and her children. As her other brother Tyrion says, “You love your children. It’s your one redeeming quality. That and your cheekbones.” As all three of her children die through the course of the show, she becomes more and more sinister. The audience maybe feels a half percent bad for her, but she does such horrible things that 95.5% hates her. This is what makes her such an amazing villain.
- Marcia Clarke (The People Vs. OJ Simpson)
Sarah Paulson gives a phenomenal performance as Marcia Clarke. In both real life and the show, Clarke was treated so poorly by the public during the OJ Simpson trial. No one had a problem being cruel to her. She was just seen as the unlikable woman trying to take down an NFL superstar. Sarah Paulson even admitted that while the trial was going on, she would judge her hairstyle and other aspects that weren’t important. 2016 was a great time for the People vs. OJ Simpson to be released because society was much more accepting for women in strong positions than in 1994. Clarke tried to neglect all emotions and not let the public get to her, but everyone has a breaking point. She was also very cool and driven, and seeing her perspective really made me root for her to win the trial. Her and Johnnie Cochran made excellent rivals. Unfortunately, she didn’t win in the end. But I don’t think the real Marcia Clarke would have changed anything about the way she was portrayed in the show.
- Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation)
With all the other characters on this list being in a drama, this might be a surprising top pick. However, there is not a female character, drama or comedy, more fresh and original than Leslie Knope. Not only was she hilarious, but she had a strong character arc from ditsy government loving employee to strong female role model. Amy Poehler and the writers would always surprise me with how funny they could be. Again, this is a role that 30 years ago would’ve been given to a male and Amy Poehler would be playing his bland love interest. The character was a perfect balance of goofy and tenacious. Everyone in Parks and Rec have extreme personalities. Leslie Knope is the biggest example of this. She’s so intense and committed. Her personality is seamlessly used for both comedic and character building purposes. Parks and Rec would be almost nothing without Leslie Knope.