10 Inspiring Female Characters Who Are Changing Television

There are lots of reasons to love TV. We are in a “Golden Age of Television,” as they say. Intricate plot lines, million dollar sets, and plenty of great-looking man candy are just three things that can be found on almost any show. Yet there still aren’t as many awesome female roles out there as there should be. Below are ladies who kick-ass each week and keep viewers coming back for more. Even though the odds may be stacked against them, they don’t back down. None of them are perfect by any means, but that’s what makes them even more intriguing to watch. And, of course, credit is due to the skillful and talented actresses that portray each of these roles. 

1. Alicia Florrick, 'The Good Wife'

Inspired by women like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards, Alicia is a prime example of a strong woman rising to the occasion. After her husband is involved in an embarrassing political scandal, she dusts off her law degree and goes back to being a practicing attorney because it’s what’s best her for her family. On the more superficial side of things, she has great clothes and gets to make out with Josh Charles. Why aren’t more people watching this show?

2. Donna Meagle, 'Parks and Recreation'

Does anyone know how to get it like Donna does? Funny and smart, Donna helps keep the Parks and Recreation office young and hip. She’s chock full of good advice, like “Use him, abuse him, lose him,” and doesn’t let anyone get in the way of her getting the man she wants. Donna is independently wealthy — she has the Benz to prove it — so she must be working for the Pawnee government out of either sheer boredom or the goodness of her heart. We think it must be the latter.

3. Virginia Johnson, 'Masters of Sex'

It’s a little too soon to tell, as Masters of Sex has only been on the air for a very short amount of time, but there’s reason to believe that Masters of Sex will not only be a very entertaining show, but may provide women with a female figure to look up to. As someone who balanced both changing sexual and social mores in this country with being a single mother, the always awesome Lizzy Caplan gives us one more reason to watch this show.

4. Cristina Yang, 'Grey's Anatomy'


Headstrong, willful, and selfish, Cristina Yang isn’t exactly a team player. And, yes, Grey’s Anatomy isn’t exactly what it used to be (Remember seasons 1 and 2?), and despite all the hardships that doctors at Seattle Grace Mercy Death have suffered, Cristina remains a strong and unique talent. She doesn’t conform to society’s ideals of how she should behave and what her family life should look like, even if it means making tough decisions and driving away those closest to her. Her relationship with Meredith Grey is one of the strongest, most important female friendships on TV, and, thanks to her, telling someone “You’re my person” really just says it all.

5. Mindy Lahiri, 'The Mindy Project'

While The Mindy Project got off to a rocky start in its freshman season, the show has picked up since, and Mindy Kaling’s semi-autobiographical character, Mindy Lahiri, is a relatable and entertaining figure for viewers to watch each week. Whether Mindy is falling head over heels for another hot white guy or sleeping with weapons in her bed to ward off possible intruders, Mindy represents what any girl can achieve with lots of hard work and a little bit of pluck.

6. Carrie Mathison, 'Homeland'

By the end of season 1 of Homeland, it was clear that Carrie would do anything for her country — even if it meant selling out the man she loved. Season 2, however, showed Carrie acting like a lovesick schoolgirl. She was almost ready abandon all of her responsibilities to run off with Brody. In the end, though, she stayed, ready to help Saul re-build the C.I.A. from the ground up, and I’m optimistic Carrie will resume her place as a lady to watch and that Homeland will resume its place as a good show.

7. Marie Schrader, 'Breaking Bad'

Marie started out on Breaking Bad as, well, pretty much a pain-in-the-ass. She was annoying, nosy, and used a five-finger discount way too often. By the time series ended, however, Marie was Hank’s rock during his many ups and downs at the D.E.A. Marie would do anything for her family, and was always looking out for the best interests of Walt Jr. and Holly.

8. Olivia Pope, 'Scandal'

Oh, Olivia. We all just want you to be happy. Don’t you know Fitz is no good for you? Olivia Pope is D.C.’s top “fixer.” She can read people like a book and always goes with her gut. Her gladiators in suits follow her with cult-like devotion, even if it’s not always in their best interest. Olivia always does what’s best for the greater good, even if — or especially if — it means setting aside her own wants and needs. At the end of the last season, her white hat was back on, and, as always, she means business.

9. Leslie Knope, 'Parks and Recreation'

This is another fairly obvious choice, but leaving Leslie Knope off of the list would have been a glaring omission.  Expert best friend, waffle lover, and kick-ass City Councilwoman, Leslie Knope seemingly has it all. That's fair, considering she puts in the hours for it — she once claimed to sleep only three-and-a-half hours a night. Nobody works harder than Leslie to stick up for the little guy. Of course, she’s not perfect, and her most recent screw-ups include badmouthing her hometown to an international audience. Still, she does everything in her power to right her wrongs. She’s come a long way since season 1 when she was a bumbling, female-version of Michael Scott.

10. All the ladies, 'Orange Is the New Black'

I wouldn’t call these women role models — they are in jail. They’re brave, inspiring, and prove that we can all fall victims to our circumstances, but we have to do the best we can to overcome them. No show brought us more three-dimensional characters this summer, and I can’t wait to meet some more of the inmates when the show returns.

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Lana Schwartz

Lana grew up in Queens, NY, and after a brief stint in Brooklyn, she currently lives in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. She's an editorial assistant at Environmental Defense Fund by day, and a comedy junkie by night. Follow her on Twitter at _lanabelle.

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