Fall in Love with TV’s Top 10 Favorite Female Characters

Fall in Love with TV’s Top 10 Favorite Female Characters

Every day in March is International Women’s Month, and we’re celebrating with a look at TV’s favorite female characters. They may be more flawed than they are fabulous, but they’re as real, complex and multi-dimensional as fictional folks can get. 

Who’s your favorite leading lady, and which series will you be streaming this month?

Parks and Recreation‘: Leslie Knope

Has there been a more likable woman on television in recent years than Amy Poehler’s (Baby Mama, Wet Hot American Summer, They Came Together) star Pawnee citizen, Leslie Knope? Her infectious ambition and endless positivity lasted through seven seasons of the beloved series as fans followed her rise through her local government’s ranks to realize her dreams. But Leslie knew how to party as hard as she loved to work, and her zealous commitment to life spanned across all her personal and professional relationships. She’s an iconic inspiration, to be sure, and always a welcome source of laughter.

Mad Men‘: Peggy Olson

Before there could be Leslie, though, first there had to be Peggy. Serving as a powerful commentary on the changing role of women in American society during the 1960s, Elizabeth Moss’ (The One I Love, The Kitchen, The Invisible Man) Peggy Olson rises through the ranks of a male-dominated field while grappling with personal issues in her family and romantic life, as well as her own sense of identity. As she navigates the challenges of being a woman in the workplace, confronts sexism and misogyny and, ultimately, finds success and fulfillment in her career, Peggy’s is one of the most compelling arcs of the show’s many complex and fascinating characters.

‘Ugly Betty’: Betty Suarez

Now, here’s a show and a star that folks absolutely adored: America Ferrera (Cesar Chavez, Real Women Have Curves, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) as the lovable and inspiring Betty Suarez. Known to stand out for her uniquely bold and colorful style, Betty’s smarts and creativity help her succeed despite her lack of traditional experience — and the fact that she doesn’t look the way the people around her want her to. To fans, she represents acceptance, inclusivity and perseverance in the face of a culture and society that continuously tries to remind us that we don’t fit in. 

black-ish‘: Rainbow “Bow” Johnson

Mama bear Bow Johnson comes to vivid life through Tracee Ellis Ross (The High Note, Little, Life Support), whose performance earned her a Golden Globe, as well as three NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. Intelligent, compassionate and socially aware, Bow’s a successful doctor and often serves as a voice of reason for her husband and children. She also openly deals with real-life struggles like postpartum depression and feelings of isolation as a biracial woman. Authentic, relatable and multi-faceted, Bow’s nuance and sensitivity are as great as it gets for women on TV.  

Fresh Off the Boat‘: Jessica Huang

Created by Always Be My Maybe‘s director, Nahnatchka Khan, Fresh Off the Boat became an instant fan favorite and a historic show for the Asian American community at large. Strong, opinionated and fiercely protective of her family, Constance Wu’s (Crazy Rich Asians, Hustlers, The Feels) take on matriarch Jessica Huang is part tough-loving wife, traditionalist and tiger mom, part insecure — yet fiercely independent — career woman. Praised for breaking stereotypes and taking pride in representing her Chinese heritage, her character has become an important cultural touchstone for many viewers — and Wu’s witty one-liners and impeccable comedic timing make it even better.

‘The Mindy Project:’ Mindy Lahiri

Mindy Kaling’s (A Wrinkle in Time, Inside Out, Ocean’s 8) time to shine comes in every project she takes on, but nowhere more so than her star turn in The Mindy Project. As unapologetically wack-a-doodle as she is brilliant, Mindy takes the world by storm as a successful OB/GYN with a killer sense of humor — and fashion to boot. She’s big-hearted but prone to self-centered, impulsive behavior and naturally hilarious all while navigating the New York City dating pool, as well as the realities of being an Indian American woman in world of white men.

Insecure‘: Issa Dee

Nominated for two Emmys and a Golden Globe, Issa Rae’s (Vengeance, The Photograph, A Black Lady Sketch Show) true-to-life take on a young Black woman living, loving and working as a nonprofit program director in Los Angeles is essential viewing on this list. Juggling boys and best friends in one hand and questions of deeper purpose and identity in the other, the show seamlessly flows between humor and wit to vulnerable introspection. Multi-dimensional and powerfully relatable, Rae’s poignant performance has been repeatedly lauded and widely acclaimed for its searing authenticity.

The Comeback‘: Valerie Cherish

While many would argue that Phoebe from Friends deserves an honorable mention here, Lisa Kudrow’s (The Opposite of Sex, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, Table 19) endearingly desperate Valerie Cherish takes the cake in this hit mockumentary series. While she’s the butt of the joke more often than not, she’s also just a middle-aged woman who’s struggling to find her place within a rapidly changing, youth-obsessed industry. Her determination is a force to be admired, even when she’s subjecting herself to the many absurdities of Hollywood culture. 

Killing Eve‘: Eve Polastri

As incredible as Jodie Comer (Help, Free Guy, The Last Duel) is, a psychotic, killer assassin isn’t going to make this list. But Sandra Oh’s (Sideways, Tammy, For Your Consideration) Eve Polastri, an ex-analyst with the British intelligence agency MI5 who becomes obsessed with her, will. When Polastri gets wind of the ruthless Villanelle, she’ll stop at nothing to track her down — including ignoring protocol, neglecting herself and her personal relationships and having to deal with intense psychological repercussions. Killing Eve is as much of a harrowing look into a dangerous job as it is refreshing to see a middle-aged, Asian American woman in a starring role that’s such high stakes. 

Pose‘: Elektra Abundance

Since trans women are women, this list wouldn’t be complete without the Mother of the House of Abundance, Dominique Jackson’s Elekra Abundance of Pose. Commanding and fiercely competitive, yet nurturing to those in need, she’s resilience personified and self-expression incarnate. And she definitely knows more than her fair share about what it means to be a woman in this world.    

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