Television has never been so good, and a big reason why it’s so good is because we’re starting see more dynamic, better-written female characters. We’re long past the age of submissive, doting housewives and static female pawns used only to cater to the male character’s development. The women on T.V. are independent, flawed and complex – and it makes sense. Women in real life are independent, flawed and complex.
There are obviously more noteworthy fictional females than who I’ve listed here (there may be a part two to this post in the future), but here are some of my favorites from my favorite shows.
Beware: this post contains spoilers from House of Cards, Game of Thrones and Mad Men.
Claire Underwood (House of Cards): played by Robin Wright
Claire Underwood has always been the partner-in-crime (literally) to the diabolic powerhouse that is Frank Underwood. In the first two seasons we see her being picked apart by the media, ridiculed by women’s groups and used as a vehicle to further her husband’s exploits. But we really see her coming to her own in season 3. The great thing about Claire was how she played the hand she was dealt, and she was dealt some fucked-up hands: a short-lived run as U.N. ambassador, a suicide she feels responsible for and general scrutiny during Frank’s campaign trail for 2016. But the defining moment for Claire was when she delivered that killer final line of the season before it cuts to black. Claire has learned that she is more than the First Lady of a ruthless, bloodthirsty President. And who knows? Maybe we’ll see another Underwood running for the 2016 ticket next season.
Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones): played by Emilia Clarke
The defining image of Game of Thrones, Daenerys is one of the many feminist icons of Game of Thrones. At the start of the series we see her as the timid last surviving Targaryen – that is until her brother Viserys receives his “gold crown.” By the end of season 1, she literally rises from the ashes as the Mother of Dragons, ready to reclaim the Iron Throne. Now we see her as a fearless conqueror of Pentos, increasing her army and taking over various cities before settling in Meereen as the new queen. Sure she’s been criticized by Meereenese for her authoritarian-like politics, but hey, being a new, young queen is hard. She’s come a long way from being the 13-year-old exile, and her beliefs are deeply rooted in justice for the lower class.
Peggy Olson (Mad Men): played by Elisabeth Moss
Mad Men is ending in a few weeks, but Peggy’s legacy as one of the most revolutionary women on T.V. will live on forever. Peggy started off as the naive secretary, uncertain of her potential; but we see her grow into the confident copy chief of SC&P. Her development was beautifully constructed, paved with obstacles along the way, but she always found her way back on the road to advancing up the corporate ladder. One of her best moments was at the last mid-season finale where she gave her pitch for Burger Chef in one of the most powerful scenes of the show, rivaling Don’s famous “Kodak Carousel” pitch from season 1. Since the show takes place in the notoriously sexist 1960s, Peggy’s development and climb to the top is one to be admired. She never had to sleep her way to the top, either. Peggy endured misogynistic co-workers and men who never took her seriously, but she learned to tune the bullshit out and to get what she deserves.