7:30am PT by Samantha Leffler
7 Ways Female TV Characters Are More Empowered Now Than Ever
TV, a medium once dominated by powerful male characters, has seen an influx of strong women in recent years. From UnREAL’s ruthless Quinn (Constance Zimmer) to The Walking Dead chameleon Carol (Melissa McBride), today’s small-screen leading ladies are more empowered than ever before.
Below, The Hollywood Reporter examines seven women who are kicking ass and taking names in more ways than one.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt protagonist may have been held captive in a bunker for most of her life, but Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) has never let her warped view of the world slow her down. She still has a long way to go before she can stand on her own, but as showrunner Robert Carlock told THR in April, “We want to get her to a place where we know that she can succeed in the real world without her losing the core of who she is.”
If there’s one thing viewers know about Empire’s Cookie — whom Taraji P. Henson said “scared the hell out of me” — it’s that she’s a gal you do not want to mess with. The mother of three oft-feuding sons wants nothing more than to keep her family together, and she’ll stop at nothing to do so even though she’s “devastated” by ex Lucious’ (Terrence Howard) surprise-but-necessary marriage to Anika (Grace Gealey) in the season two finale.
As a co-leader of the sexual revolution in the 1950s-1970s, Masters of Sex’s Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) is as empowered as they come and decades ahead of her time. Her comfort with her sexuality serves the Human Sexual Response study with Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) well, but it also means she’s frequently chastised by her peers and predominantly male colleagues. As Caplan told THR of her character in 2015, “ She has a lot of things going on in her life that would be easy to judge.”
Season two of Madam Secretary ended with Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni) being offered the vice president job. While viewers have to wait until season three to find out if she will accept the second-most-important-job in the country, there’s nothing more empowering than a woman who’s actually in a position of power and ripe for a promotion.
The Walking Dead fan-favorite has morphed from a meek, abused wife to an all-around badass, and her grit and ever-changing ways make her a formidable opponent in a world dominated by walkers and heartless villains. Since arriving at the Alexandria Safe Zone, Carol has channeled her inner-housewife in an effort to blend in, while also maintaining her kill-or-be-killed mentality. After killing several people (including a child) Carol’s choices are starting to weigh on her. “She feels like a monster,” McBride told THR in March.
Superhero Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) has superhuman strength and limited flight, but she also suffers from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by years of being raped by Kilgrave (David Tennant). Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg told THR in November the rape backstory was intentionally not made into a specific topic of discussion, explaining, “It's really about how this particular character deals with it or doesn't, as the case may be. We didn't want to tackle it as an ‘issue’… it was really just informing her character.” An empowered Jessica ultimately kills Kilgrave and prevents him from inflicting more damage, but her self-worth is non-existent and her PTSD remains.
Quinn (Constance Zimmer), UnREAL’s producer of a Bachelor-esque show called Everlasting, doesn’t have much of a conscience, but she’s as ruthless and cut-throat as can be, and isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to get ahead in her male-dominated field. This is a gal who knows her worth. Though she’s often at odds with Everlasting producer and pal Rachel (Shiri Appleby), when asked about season two of the Lifetime drama Zimmer told THR, “The message is about women supporting women and that tearing each other down doesn't get anybody anywhere.”
Who are your favorites?