Where Are All the Leading Women? On TV, Of Course
As Dustin has already pointed out, this summer is a crap time for movies about women. The Heat is the only major studio release this summer that features women in lead roles, and as NPR’s Linda Holmes pointed out on Monkey See, even among independent films, stories about women featuring women are scarce. If you don’t live in a major metropolitan area, which most in the country don’t, then forget trying to catch Frances Ha or The East. The problem of film distribution — smaller films making it to the masses — can seem like a side issue, but it matters here when it is those smaller films that provide the diversity that is lacking in larger studio films. I live in San Antonio (shout-out to my girl Senator Leticia Van de Putte), the seventh most populous city in the U.S., and Frances Ha was only here, at one art house theater, for one week. Of course, just because I’d like to see movies predominantly featuring women doesn’t mean I’m opposed to seeing those that don’t. I saw Star Trek Into Darkness, and I may catch Man of Steel and This is The End. But that’s not enough.
Good thing I stopped relying on movies as my main source of entertainment ages ago. I go to the movie theater every now and then, but I learned long ago that if I want the best entertainment around, I should turn to TV. You’re looking for not only great female characters, but ones that either are the leads or are among the main characters in a story? Start filling up your DVR queues. This doesn’t solve the problem of a lack of female voices in film, and statistically, I’m sure women are still underrepresented on TV compared to men. (And this doesn’t even cover minority and LGBT characters.) Nevertheless, TV, and especially extended cable, is where the stories are.
Here are some of our favorite leading ladies from current shows:
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), “Game of Thrones”
Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling), “The Mindy Project”
Sarah/Beth/Alison/Cosima/Helena/Katja/Rachel etc. (Tatiana Maslany), “Orphan Black”
Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), “Veep”
Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss), “Mad Men”
And another from Elisabeth Moss: Robin Griffin, “Top of the Lake”
Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), “The Killing”
Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), “Scandal”
Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), “Nurse Jackie”
Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), “The Good Wife”
Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham), “Girls”
Carrie Mathison (Claire Daines), “Homeland”
Jess Day (Zooey Deschanel), “New Girl”
Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), “True Blood”
Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum), “Shameless”
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), “Parks and Recreation”
Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio. You can find her on Twitter.