by Josie Deacon

There’s nothing worse than when you’re relaxing on the couch with several snacks, possibly a glass of wine, trying to unwind with a film or TV show when BAM, the feminist in you is enraged by some terrible and probably sexist writing. Why is that female character doing that? What women would EVER react like that? Why are these men trash?

Well fear not, Fearless Femmes, because I have composed a shortlist of my favourite films and TV shows (mostly TV shows) that you can happily binge without fear of getting stressed-out by the state of the world. Because you should be able to watch something in this day and age that actually treats women like interesting characters.

1. Gilmore Girls

Show Promo Image: Gilmore Girls

Set in a small town in America, Gilmore Girls follows Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory, through the ups and downs of young adult life. Feisty Lorelai had bookish Rory when she was 16, and although their mother/daughter roles are perhaps similar to Edina and Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous, Eddy and Saffy are complete opposites, whereas Lorelai and Rory are essentially soulmates. Gilmore Girls brilliantly portrays relationships between women, especially mothers and daughters. Sure, there are romances with men in it for both of the Gilmore Girls, but the main story is almost always about how Lorelai & Rory face challenges together, or apart. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the women in Gilmore Girls are real and have real dreams and ambitions besides marriage. Lorelai dreams of running her own inn with her best friend Sookie (played by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy), whilst Rory has dreams of going to Harvard and becoming a journalist. The two have ups and downs towards their goals, but their drive and ambition is inspiring to anyone with their own goals. The show is funny too, which is always a bonus.

Available on Netflix.

2. Fargo

Show Promo Image: Fargo

Both a film and a TV show, either can be watched without having to roll your eyes. The film/series don’t specifically touch on themes unique to being a woman like in Gilmore Girls, but the women in the show are well rounded and don’t sit on the couch talking about the men running around solving the crimes. I absolutely adore Frances McDormand’s character Marge in the film, and even more so Molly in the series – both these women solve the cases themselves and take charge. If you like thrillers and cop procedural dramas you will love this.

Available on Netflix.

3. Happy Valley

Show Promo Image: Happy Valley

Another police program, Happy Valley is set in Yorkshire and written by the brilliant Sally Wainwright. This gritty story follows police sergeant Catherine Cawood who, along with her sister, takes care of her grandson, who was born after Catherine’s daughter was raped and later committed suicide.

On top of a whole load of complicated issues Catherine deals with at home, as well as a tricky case, Catherine also has to deal with her daughter’s rapist being released from prison and trying to get in contact with his son.

Though the story is obviously quite sad, and deals with a horrifically misogynistic and dangerous man (please do not watch this if you can’t watch violence against women), Catherine’s character is so badass but also compassionate that you’ll love watching her “save the day”.

Available on Netflix.

4. Rick and Morty

Show Promo Image: Rick and Morty

A surprising one I know, as some of the fans can be… well… sexist (see here, fans complain about female writers), but this is an easy sci-fi comedy show that doesn’t overtly sexualise its female characters, and the characters of Summer and Beth are developing into some seriously badass women. Just don’t try and talk to anyone on the internet about it…

Available on Netflix.

5. BoJack Horseman

Show Promo Image: BoJack Horseman

This show gets double points for one of my favourite characters of all time: Diane Nguyen. I could write a whole essay on how she’s the perfect representation of what it’s like to be a feminist in modern society. It also gets double points for some of the great themes it covers: abortion, gun control (and how America hates women more than they love guns…) marriage, celebrity feminism, child actors and how the media treats women, pregnancy, life as a working woman, sexuality (including asexuality)… I could go on! This show is hilarious, most definitely left wing, and talks about serious issues both seriously and humorously. But if anything, please watch this show for Diane: a openly proud feminist who struggles with staying “true” to feminism whilst also supporting her friends and the other women in her life. Diane constantly doubts her own beliefs and struggles with the anxiety of trying to be a better feminist. Sometimes we all need to allow ourselves to not be always the “best feminist”, and watching Diane has certainly helped me realise not to be so hard on myself.

Available on Netflix.

6. Jessica Jones

Show Promo Image: Jessica Jones

Yay! Female superhero! Is that enough to convince you? It was for me, and I am so glad I watched it. Jessica Jones, our eponymous antiheroine with superhuman strength, is a deeply flawed character. With the support of an incredible best friend, she spends the series defeating the antagonist: an incredibly abusive ex-“boyfriend” (I use the term very, very loosely).

If you love superhero movies, you’ll love this. David Tennant makes an excellent villain (I never thought I would ever be physically repulsed by him) and Krysten Ritter re-defines what it means to be a badass superhero.

Available on Netflix.

7. How to Get Away with Murder

Show Promo Image: How To Get Away With Murder

Woah boy is this a great series! Not only does it have great female representation, it also has fantastic racial diversity. Viola Davis shines as Annalise Keating in this thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. Annalise is cunning, manipulative, deeply flawed but incredibly loveable. And Alfred Enoch (you may recognise him as Dean Thomas from Harry Potter) is just gorgeous. This is one of those series that I binged watched over a couple of days because I couldn’t get enough.

Available on Netflix.

8. Stranger Things

Show Promo Image: Stranger Things

Right, if you haven’t watched this already… what are you doing? The series focuses on three 12-year-old boys who bump into an enigmatic young girl named Eleven whilst trying to solve the mystery of their friend’s disappearance. Millie Bobby Brown and Winona Ryder both have brilliant performances (as Eleven and the mother of the missing boy, respectively), and one of the boys’ older sister, Nancy, gives an honest look at dating as a teenage girl in the 80s – as well as becoming brave and fighting for her best friend.

Available on Netflix.

9. Orphan Black

Show Promo Image: Orphan Black

If you’re an aspiring actor, don’t watch this. Tatiana Maslany absolutely slays in her many, many roles – so much so that you’ll be doubting just how good an actor you could be.

Orphan Black follows Sarah Manning, a punk Londoner who grew up in Canada, as she untangles a conspiracy that leads her to finding a new family in her “sisters”. A fast paced and thrilling plot, this is definitely another binge worthy series.

Available on Netflix.

10. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Show Promo Image: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

A quirky and funny mystery with a brilliant range of lively characters. This story is so wacky and though Dirk Gently really, really, should be a incredibly annoying character, he just isn’t. Again, this series doesn’t particularly focus on women, but the female characters in it are well-rounded and strong enough that you won’t cringe while watching. An enjoyable show without the need to quieten the enraged feminist within you.

Available on Netflix.

11. 3%

Show Promo Image: 3%

This Brazilian show is absolutely brilliant. 3% is set in dystopian future where only 3% of the population get to live in “paradise”, while the rest of the population compete in a series of puzzles and tasks to prove their worthiness.

I adored the main character, Michele, for her fierce determination and her cunning. This is also the only show on my list that has disabled representation, in the form of the love interest, wheelchair-user Fernando, who is sweet, funny, and gives an emotional performance. With themes of class, poverty and justice, this show will be perfect for the radical feminist who loves to watch people “stick it to the man”.

Available on Netflix.

12. Brave

Movie Promo Image: Brave

A shout-out to one of my favourite Disney movies, Brave. Before Frozen, Merida was actually the original Disney princess who didn’t marry the prince at the end – in fact the whole story is about Merida not wanting to get married, but rather to enjoy being herself. More deeply though, the story is about Merida’s relationship with her mother that has, over time, been a cause of tension, and their journey to patch things up again. With beautiful animation, gaelic music, and funny characters, this story always makes me cry and miss my mum.

13. Wonder Woman

Movie Promo Image: Wonder Woman

Last but certainly not least, I think we can all rejoice at how brilliant Wonder Woman was. There was a fear that if this female superhero movie was terrible, there would be no more female superhero movies, and producers would assume it meant that hey, women characters are just not that interesting to the general public.

How THRILLED I am that this movie was a huge success. Not only did the movie finally put DC movies back where they should be (let’s not talk about Batman VS Superman) but the first 30 minutes or so is purely based on Themyscira – an island solely inhabited by women called the Amazons. There were some moments in the movie that I was a bit… iffy with:  they did feel the need to have the male characters confirm that Diane was attractive as if it wasn’t already obvious to the audience, and also completely irrelevant. But rather than using her beauty to win, she uses her strength, courage, and wisdom, and it’s very rare for a female superhero not to have a “let me fool them with my sexy dress” scene.

I hope this list will help you pick up a new series or film, or perhaps has reminded you of the brilliant shows out there that don’t portray women in a disappointing light. But sometimes, it’s ok to allow yourself to watch a show that perhaps doesn’t get women 100% right, if you can still enjoy the other bits. It can be tiring to try and constantly be a good feminist (again, watch Bojack Horseman for Diane’s take) and we need to be able to switch off, unwind, and destress in peace. Do you agree with my list? What shows do you like watching?

Author Image: Josie Deacon

Josie Deacon

Josie is a Drama and Scriptwriting Graduate from Northumbria University, who enjoys writing of all forms. Josie has been, thanks to a feminist mother, an outspoken feminist for a long time, with particular interest in how women are written and portrayed in the media. Josie hopes to one day have her own production company, producing films and digital content that inspire women from all backgrounds. For now, she enjoys writing in her spare time, whilst working in administration and communication for local government. Josie grew up in the Highlands and loves wildlife and nature.

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