Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! Films have long featured amazing things. But one thing they’re lacking makes up more than 50 percent of the worldwide population: women. A 2009 study published in the Los Angeles Times found that among the top 100 grossing movies of that year, only 32.8 percent of the 4,342 speaking characters were female.
Well then, let’s turn to a different medium: television. Though its screen may be smaller, TV sets worldwide are showcasing incredible stories starring dazzling female leads that viewers, no matter their gender, should adore and admire.
From a vice president to a former surgeon turned consulting detective, learn about some of today’s best female characters and their addicting shows below.
This ensemble Canadian series stars an orphaned British con artist, an uptight Canadian soccer mom, a dreadlocked American graduate student and a deranged, feral-like Ukrainian assassin — each played by Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany. No, it’s not a kooky experimental series using the same actress for no other reason than cheap comedy; it’s a sci-fi masterpiece centered on clones, all eerily realistic woman who call into question the good ol’ debate of nature verses nurture, complete with episodes titled after a quote from Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.”
Though science fiction might be its most prevalent genre, “Orphan Black” often feels like a traditional drama focused on interpersonal relationships and has many elements of police procedure and action/adventure, with plenty of delightful doses of witty comedy. But despite its rollercoaster-like twists and turns, perhaps the most shocking thing about “Orphan Black” is that Maslany didn’t receive an Emmy nomination. She makes each clone equally captivating, yet instantly distinguishable through unique mannerisms and accents.
Joe Biden might be a charismatic politician, but when it comes to comedy, there’s no better vice president than Selina Meyer. Julia Louis-Dreyfus trades in her famous “Seinfeld” lines for deliciously clever quotes so filled with profanity that I fear for my job were I to print one here. The show may be labeled political satire, but with its media snafus, office scandals and even a federal government shutdown, it’s easy to wonder if it’s closer to a reality show.
The political party affiliation of Selina and her staffers is never revealed, so viewers of all beliefs can comfortably root either for or against her. Plus, the president is never shown nor is his name spoken. Selina is the true star, just as she aims to be the star of the political world stage. It’s hard not to love a show that has a massive list of nicknames for its main character, including the Wicked Witch of the West Wing, Blunder Woman, Tawdry Hepburn, Selina Meh and Veep Throat.
It would be easy to accuse the show’s swapping of John Watson for Joan Watson of being a cheap trick to force a will-they-won’t-they romance plot between the two main characters. But although the relationship between Joan and Sherlock Holmes in this modern-day adaption of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories is extremely layered and interesting, it’s also completely platonic, and the writers insist that they’ll keep it that way.
“Sidekick” is a completely inaccurate word to describe Joan, played by the brilliant Lucy Liu. She has a rich backstory, that’s slowly been revealed, along with a full life outside of her relationship Sherlock. With her medical background and natural intelligence, she showcases talents and skills that far surpass her male counterpart, much to both his frustration and amusement. And with her refreshing smile, bullet-speed wit and shining compassion, it’s hard for anyone not to think of Liu’s character as “my dear Watson,” while enjoying the show’s many surprising twists and quirks — not to even mention the pet turtle.
“Parks and Recreation”
Former “Saturday Night Live” gem Amy Poehler stars as Leslie Knope, a quirky mid-level bureaucrat of a fictional small-town parks and recreation department. Leslie, an ambitiously optimistic and energetic creation, loves a few things above all else: her wonderfully awkward husband Ben, her loyal best friend Ann, breakfast foods covered in whipped cream, and her hometown of Pawnee, Ind. — though not necessarily in that order.
Although this mockumentary is an ensemble comedy, it centers around Leslie’s passion and enthusiasm in much the same way that the American version of “The Office,” whose creators also created “Parks,” centered around Michael Scott’s zaniness and cluelessness. Poehler makes Leslie hilariously outlandish, yet, entirely relatable, supporting the other eccentric characters, who include a goofy musician and his sarcastic wife, a kindhearted nurse, a technology-obsessed entrepreneur and even a beloved miniature house. But an interest in politics isn’t necessary for loving this clever series; in fact, Leslie’s boss Ron constantly, and proudly, admits to hating all government.