On those days when my lady tank is running low on confidence or patience for BS, I turn to some of my favorite TV characters for an escape and a pep talk. These are the leading ladies who make me laugh, cry and sometimes boil with rage. The ones with killer instincts and killer outfits who make me want to stand in the middle of the street and yell “I am woman, hear me ROAR!” [Oh, hi neighbor. Sorry, I didn’t see you there.]
In honor of International Women’s Day this month, we’ve rounded up 10 female TV characters we look up to. No matter what challenges they face, they all rise to the occasion with plenty of flair. These women always knew who they were and what they wanted and never apologized for it:
Olivia Pope, Scandal
From salacious affairs to diplomatic crises, there was no problem DC fixer Olivia Pope couldn’t “handle.” Never one to apologize for her ambition, Kerry Washington’s Pope commanded every scene during the show’s seven-season run. Excuse me, I’m off to enjoy a bowl of popcorn and a glass of red wine.
Samantha Jones, Sex and the City
PR maven Samantha Jones defied traditional gender roles with her frank discussion of sexuality and aging. Reminding us we don’t need a partner to be happy, she gave us this iconic mantra: “I love you, but I love me more.” If we’re getting season two of And Just Like That…, I will spend 2022 manifesting Kim Cattrall’s return to the SATC universe.
Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Vampires, demons, high school mean girls — commanding and strong, Buffy didn’t let anyone or anything get in her way. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s teen vampire slayer led a cast of dynamic women who always found a way to save the day (and the world). And she’s still my inspiration during any kickboxing workout, that’s for sure.
Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
There are days when only Leslie Knope can lift my mood. Played by the hilarious Amy Poehler, the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, loves her community and her friends in an inspiring way. Her downright refusal to believe she couldn’t make things better for everyone wasn’t just funny, it was inspiring.
Arya Stark, Game of Thrones
In a show with so many characters I needed a chart to keep them all straight, Arya quickly stood out as the badass of the north. She turned an unbelievable amount of tragedy into her driving force to defy what was expected of her and, well, get revenge. If you ever bet against her, boy were you proved wrong. Pie, anyone? I’d add any of the women in this series to the list, by the way.
Dr. Cristina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy
From the moment we met Dr. Christina Yang, we knew she was the absolute best. Why? Because she said so. Played by Sandra Oh, the aspiring surgeon’s brazen confidence and pride in her work was like the pep talk we all needed to remind us to stop apologizing for what we’re good at. It’s hard for me not to tear up watching her “He’s not the sun” speech over again.
Rose Nylund, The Golden Girls
She wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but Rose’s sweet innocence and naivety always made me smile (and wonder what was in the water in St. Olaf, Minnesota). Betty White was truly one of a kind, just like her portrayal of this sweet retiree, who was also capable of landing a jab or two when someone needed to be taken down a peg.
Jane Villanueva, Jane the Virgin
Life is all about playing the hand you’re dealt, and I can’t imagine a stranger hand to be dealt than the one accidentally inseminated Jane got. Gina Rodriguez’s Jane embraced all of the unexpected twists and turns of motherhood (and whatever else this telenovela satire threw at her) while remaining a hopeless romantic in pursuit of her dreams.
Angela Abar, Watchmen
Going up against violent white supremacists while protecting her community and family was all in a day’s work for this brave hero. Regina King’s turn as masked police officer Angela Abar/Sister Night came at such an important time, we will continue crossing our fingers and toes HBO decides to continue the story. We need it.
Moira Rose, Schitt’s Creek
Fabulous and flawed, the matriarch of the Rose clan was far from your typical TV mom. She was brutally honest and unafraid to be exactly who she was. Best of all, she wasn’t afraid to grow and learn to show more affection to her loved ones, much as those first hugs seemed to physically pain her.
Which female lead is your favorite? Share your thoughts — and any other characters you admire — in the comments.