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The Most Powerful Female Characters on TV

A new article from Variety really hit home for me recently. It was titled, “Equal Pay: Women, Minorities on TV Still Making Less Than White Men.” This isn’t really news. Of course the pay gap everywhere is still something women are dealing with on a daily basis. But what was startling about this in-depth look at the pay gap in entertainment were the stats.

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According to a 2016 GLAAD report, only 44 percent of series-regular prime-time broadcast roles were female. Only 20 percent of series regulars on broadcast television were black and of those, only 38 percent were black women. Ouch.

Now, that’s the bad news. But I do think there is some good news to be found in those statistics. Women are underrepresented, yes, but that hasn’t stopped them from making big waves in television. Female voices are being heard because they are some of the strongest, most complex and most fun-to-watch characters on television right now. Women may not be equally represented, but those who are show off so many different strengths they’re definitely worth celebrating.

So here are the women of present and past television who are owning their power and keeping the female voice booming loudly.

1. Olivia Pope on Scandal

Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) doesn’t just stand up to the president on an almost daily basis, she also saved his ass more than a few times.

2. Bette and Joan on Feud: Bette & Joan

The story of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s infamous feud told through a lens that makes the ladies relatable and complex.

3. Celeste Wright on Big Little Lies

Nicole Kidman’s performance as Celeste gave women struggling through abusive relationships a truthful voice.

4. Sophia Burset on OITNB

Sophia’s impact was bigger than OITNB as she helped define actor Laverne Cox as a champion for the transgender community.

5. Daenerys & Cersei on Game of Thrones

Love or hate Cersei, you can’t deny her powerful impact on Game of Thrones.

And this list just wouldn’t be complete without the Mother of Dragons.

6. Jessica Jones

Troubled and flawed, Jessica Jones joins the ranks of Marvel superheroes as one of the grittiest. She was a beacon of superhero hope for women well before Wonder Woman‘s release, and she continues to be a character worth unraveling.

7. Wendy Rhoades & Taylor on Billions

Wendy (Maggie Siff) brings it with her psychology skills and her ability to assess human nature.

Meanwhile, Asia Kate Dillon takes on the role of Taylor in the series, a gender nonbinary badass who is always the smartest person in the room.

8. Olivia Benson on Law & Order SVU

As the commanding officer of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, Olivia (Mariska Hargitay) has been making leadership look good since she joined the show in 1999.

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9. Claire Underwood on House of Cards

The woman behind the man, Frank Underwood might be the one building the house of cards, but Claire (Robin Wright) is the one holding the deck.

10. Dana Scully on X-Files

Oh, Gillian Anderson, how I love thee. She beautifully translates Dana’s journey to find a balance between supposed myth and hard science as the series unfolds, all while maintaining a character we root for.

11. Offred on The Handmaid’s Tale

In a nightmare of a situation, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) doesn’t give up. She continues to fight for a world in which women aren’t defined by their ability to conceive.

12. Sarah Lane in The Path

Though misguided in her faith, the Myerism Sarah wants is a Myerism that we could all get behind, if only the religion were so simple and uncorrupted.

13. Sydney Bristow on Alias

Who didn’t want to be Sydney Bristow in Alias? Yes, her spy skills were on point, but what made her so strong was her unwillingness to ever give up and her loyalty to her friends.

14. Buffy on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

She was just a regular high school girl who happened to spend her off-time killing vampires. There was no greater friend than Buffy and no greater role model for young women.

15. Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife

She may not know how to work well with others, but she definitely knows how to work.

16. Elizabeth Jennings on The Americans

Just a normal life for a KGB officer operating covertly as a housewife in America. What’s not to enjoy about a character like that?

17. Patty Hewes on Damages

Patty dominates in an otherwise male-dominated industry. She fights hard and she fights smart. Her character was so well-developed that it earned actor Glenn Close a Golden Globe.

18. Michonne on The Walking Dead

Not gonna lie. When Michonne first joined The Walking Dead, I was a skeptic. But her humanity has slowly leaked out of her tough, katana-wielding exterior.
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Which strong TV ladies would you add to our list?

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