The Ladies of Television

Television may rot your brain, and hulu may be hastening our cultural demise, but I’m going to make a confession: I still watch it.  I love me a good evening sitting on the couch, laptop on lap, watching a good marathon of something (I think marathons are the downfall of civilization).  Recently the blogosphere has been jumping with discussions of women in television (Little Junkies here, and Jezebel here)– and while these lists are filled with kickin’ leadin’ ladies, I think there were a few glaring omissions. My 2 cents:

Dana Scully: X-files, FBI Special Agent and M.D. She doesn’t shy away from guts, blood, and the risk of death. She is fearless, a skeptic, and will only believe what can be proven through science; she can hold her own against Fox[y] Mulder. Not only that, she does it without slutting it up. I think we all can remember those shoulder pads, tapered pants, and pumps circa season 1-3… She is smart, grounded, motivated, believable, and an excellent example of what good writing and talented actresses can do on TV.


Related: Yves Adele Harlow: The Lone Gunmen, Resident badass. Yves was the nemesis of the all-knowing Lone Gunmen and was always 2 steps ahead of these guys. Ok, this show was only on for a season (tragedy!) but she gets to be on this list for her name alone (anagram for what?….).


I’m shocked and appalled that not a single Star Trek character appeared on either list. Star Trek is near and dear to my heart, and so are these ladies:

Kathryn Janeway: Voyager, The first female to captain a starship on Star Trek. She united her feuding crew, completed the impossible mission which she was dealt, and didn’t shy away from the tough decisions. She was empathetic and compassionate without being weak (see: Tom Paris, 7 of 9). Yes! Women can lead with dignity! And, as above, without slutting it up.

Nyota Uhura: The Original Series, Chief Communications Officer. Not only did she provide a female character on the show with an actual job (ahem, Yeoman Rand, we’re all looking at you here), she was also one of the first black characters on an American TV show. She considered leaving after the first season, but was convinced to stay by none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. himself. Her presence influenced Whoopi Goldberg’s decision to go after a role in The Next Generation. Thank God– as Guinan is another one of my favorite characters from that show…

Nothing drives a storyline more effectively than a worthy nemesis. Enter: Wilhelmina Slater: Ugly Betty, Co-Editor-in-Chief. She is one woman I love to hate. Driven to a fault, Wilhelmina Slater knows what she wants and will stop at NOTHING to get it. See also: stealing sperm from a dead man, breaking and entering, sabotaging coworkers, blackmailing…everyone, cruelty to the elderly, and so on ad infinitum.

Having a solid cast helps too. To that end, I would like to submit the women of CSI for your scrutiny. Bitch Magazine blogged about this here , and I have to heartily agree: here here says I!  Catherine Willows, former stripper, single mother, and current CSI Level 3 and Supervisor of the night shift, and Wendy Simms, DNA Technician and closet Astro Quest geek are my two current favorite ladies on this show.

Miranda Bailey: Grey’s Anatomy, General Surgical Resident. “The Nazi” is tough, takes shit from no one, and knows her stuff. She is confident in her skills and abilities, encourages her colleagues to step up to the challenge, and is a great teacher.  I especially love it when she does stuff like this. I think I keep watching this show because of the variety of female characters it depicts: Bailey, the wise; Meredith Grey, the lost; Izzie Stevens, the perpetual optimisit; Cristina Yang, the driven; Callie Torres, the badass; Arizona Robbins, the perky; and Lexie Grey, the shy yet self-assured.  Keep ’em coming, Shonda, keep ’em coming.

Carla Espinosa-Turk: Scrubs, Nurse. Carla oozes confidence. She is the character I want to be on Scrubs, even though I’m probably about as put-together as Elliot Reed. Carla loves her family, her job, her husband, her friends. She is the perfect friend, she is supportive yet she will still tell you how it is when you’re in the wrong. She’s so great, they even sang a song about how much they’d miss her when she went on maternity leave!

i luv lucy
Lucy Ricardo: I Love Lucy, housewife and aspiring actress. Not only is this show hilarious, it was wildly popular back in the day (and today, too. hello, TV Land!). Lucy, never one to be satisfied with the status quo, is always thinking of ways to try to get on Ricky’s show, even though she’s a talentless hack.  When she’s not trying to break onto the show, her antics are the stuff of legend.  Anyone who says women aren’t funny has clearly never watched this show. What more can I say? Go, watch, laugh.

Sarah Walker: Chuck, CIA Agent and Chuck’s handler. Ok, she’s blonde, buxom, and stereotypically beautiful– but she’s also kick-ass and knows her way around an arsenal of weaponry and she would never allow anything to happen to Chuck. EVER. This is one fearless woman who isn’t afriad of a fight. Underneath the hard exterior, she has a heart and I think it’s melting for Chuck (can you blame her?).


And that’s my list ladies and gents. What thinks ye? Who would you add?


14 responses to “The Ladies of Television

  1. Don’t forget Zoe from “Firefly”!

  2. buckingthewave

    I’ve never seen Firefly!! (Don’t worry, I’ve been thoroughly reprimanded and it’s been added to the top of my queue…)

  3. Great list! Also a double plus: Zuleikha Robinson (aka Yves Adele Harlow) is on Lost–another cast of ladies I skipped on. Sun-Hwa Kwon is pretty awesome.

    Best Carla Espinosa moment: When she and Ted do an acapella duet of Poison’s “Talk Dirty To Me” to fulfill a request of a comatose patient.

    • Oh, and I ALWAYS forget to give props to Ashley Jensen. Hi-larious as Christina on Ugly Betty even better as Maggie on Extras…RIP Extras ::sigh::

      • is she really scottish? or just on ugly betty…
        her accent is so good! it makes me want one. one that’s not minnesoooootan.

  4. Amen to Lucy’s inclusion. Though I’d love to add Laverne and Shirley…

    • and Rhoda, and Mary Tyler Moore, and Samantha from Bewitched, and on and on… I couldn’t decide where to draw the line! So I decided to just go with my favorite of “the old stuff.”

  5. Speaking as an (ahem) ‘older’ woman, I am saddened to see that we are not strongly represented. It would be nice to see some significant role models that are mature and that are not wicked, evil, nasty and bitter.

    • The entire cast of Golden Girls perhaps?

    • Crap! How could I forget Murphy Brown? Jezebel got her covered on the link above though

    • Lily- The Jezebel story covered most of the “older” women, but failed to address more modern women on TV now, which is why I focused on more modern TV heroines.
      A problem though, is that older women on contemporary television programs are relegated to less prominent roles than they’ve had in the past. They’re either the grandma, the vicious career woman, or a bit part. And I think we have the Hollywood machine to blame for that… There are some shows, like Ugly Betty, however, that have a strong showing of older female characters– they make perhaps not the best role models, but at least they’re out there.

  6. Thought I would note…Janeway is not the first female captain on Star Trek, but the first ‘main’ captain, the one who captained a ship the series was based on.

    • You’re right! The first was in Star Trek IV.

      What I should have said is that Voyager is the first series built around a female captain.

  7. Pingback: Woman Poses As Federal Agent » Popular Fidelity » Unusual Stuff

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