If you’re feeling helpless and hopeless about the state of the world, you might want to balance watching the news with some of 22 inspirational and empowering female fictional characters’ antics. They’ve certainly helped me…
1) Queen Latifah as Robin McCall in The Equalizer
Am soooo in awe of Queen Latifah in The Equalizer. It feels like watching a grown up Buffy but with more nuanced ‘baddies’ (than vampires and demons although Buffy had her challenges!). Robin McCall (aka the Equalizer) helps life’s underdogs and balances her practically superhero work persona with being a single mother. Love it (and her) SO much, have been listening to loads of Queen Latifah’s old music again.
2, 3, 4 and 5) Katie Stevens as Jane, Aisha Dee as Kat, Meghann Fahy as Sutton and Melora Hardin as Jacqueline in The Bold Type
I love this so much and have been eagerly awaiting S5 for over a year. Diverse (in terms of talent, background, different types of privilege, politics etc), loyal, ambitious, creative, evolving characters – Jane, Kat and Sutton – are best friends and colleagues who disagree without falling out. They deal with career, relationship, addiction and health issues, trauma and, of course fashion. And Melora Hardin as Editor Jacqueline is an incredible mentor who expects a lot and really cares. READ MORE
6) Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars
Watching fictional teen Veronica Mars confront all the grief and trauma scriptwriters threw at her helped keep me alive in my 20s. Such a tiny figure. SUCH a lionheart. Watching her not only survive but keep on investigating gives me chills decades later… I like to imagine that playing such a part at a young age helped Real Life Bell stand up for her and her fellow stars around invasive paparazzi pictures of them and their babies
7) Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri in The Mindy Project
The super, multitalented Kaling created the show in which she plays an OB GYN (like her real mother) and while she’s not exactly a role model, she’s a hilarious inspiration just the same in terms of her open heart and resilience in the face of (usually self induced) setbacks.
8) Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia in Criminal Minds
Recently reading Joyful by Ingrid Petell Lee, I immediately remembered the colourful wardrobe and office of the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis unit hacker extraordinaire. She worked at balancing the horror of her work with an inspiring zest for life. And Vangsness overcame her own challenges in order to act in the first place having struggled to with speech and shyness for years
9) Tea Leoni as Bess / Elizabeth McCord in Madam Secretary
Former CIA agent turned transparent politician when she accepts the role of Secretary of State and ultimately becomes President. Especially at times like this, I like to imagine the gazillions of goodhearted, skilled diplomats working their magic around the globe. Her ethics and integrity, while fictional, remain inspirational and her using her position of power to serve the most vulnerable (eg children in cages held at the border) is making me well up to remember that episode. And gorgeous seeming marriage with husband Henry.
10) Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in The Good Fight
Watching Lockhart’s confusion and shock navigating the Trump administration (complete with her experimentation with mild hallucinogenics) was a healing experience. She started out having expected a lush retirement only to have lost ‘everything’ (still way more than most people would dream of having) and joins a different law firm. As the fight for racial equality gained momentum, she had to assess her white privilege AND honour her efforts. I found it inspiring to see even a fictional character wrestle with tough decisions.
11) Jane Seymore as Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman
Another series that helped me stay alive (watching it belatedly in my 20s). Her courage. Her compassion. Her grit. And again, lovely seeming relationship with Joe Lando’s Sully. I also loved the way that the small community HAD to work together and help each other even as they had different ideas about how to live and serve others.
12) Chandra Wilson as Dr Miranda Bailey in Grey’s Anatomy
Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) has her moments as do so many others (I’ve previously blogged about Link and Jo) but Bailey is beyond brilliant. Her evolution from tough resident to the compassionate (and still tough), grounded mental health advocate – she (in my opinion) is the real glue. And her navigating her anxiety and her husband’s career change to one when he runs into fires for a living… Gorgeousness. Human.
13) Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi and 14) Niecy Nash as the therapist in Never Have I Ever
Even though I look white, I’m Indian Irish and to see the wonderful Devi acting out (not being the Good Asian Best Friend type character), being ANGRY, having big feelings and learning to navigate them has been a delight. Roll on S3! (And thanks again, Mindy Kaling for your creation). The therapist gets an honourable mention because she’s one of my all time favourite TV therapists.
15) Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed in Wild
I’ve only climbed the Reek (aka Croagh Patrick Mountain), the mountain I see from my house, once (so far) and I thought I was going to need Mountain Rescue at the top on account of vertigo. Strayed’s bestselling memoir turned movie is beyond inspirational as she navigates grief, heartbreak and addiction by, as her mother used to advise, putting herself ‘in the way of beauty’ and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. READ MORE
16) Melissa O’Neil as Lucy Chen in The Rookie
Full disclosure: I routinely have to fast forward loads of The Rookie, SWAT, The Equalizer etc as they put their characters through SO MUCH. Chen is a survivor of so many things I can’t even imagine facing (including being buried alive) and has had to be extra tough but never loses heart and even takes in a teenager in need instead of letting others’ cynicism win. In spite of all she’s been through, she’s hilarious and true to herself.
17) and 18) Samara Weaving as Thea and Brigette Lundy-Paine as Billie and Bill and Ted Face the Music
Aww. I remember when she was in Home and Away. Music, collaboration, harmonising, creating can save the world. If you don’t mind spoilers, I blogged more about the wondrous sequel HERE
19) Lina Esco as Chris Alonso in S.W.A.T.
Another survivor turned protector. The only woman not only in the team but for a long time, in the department. I watch a LOT of LAPD set stuff where the fictional police are working to addressing systemic racism and reform from within. Also (having shaved my head in January 2021), hair goalz.
20) Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson in Law and Order: SVU
She’s in the book for setting up the Joyful Heart Foundation when the heartfelt letters that started pouring in over two decades ago, Hargitay realised that she couldn’t continue to play Benson without doing something to support real life survivors of sexual assault. They combine legal advocacy with the healing power of nature (eg swimming with dolphins). While I dream of living in a world in which perpetrators face consequences, the fictional Benson (and knowledge that many are fighting for change) helps A Lot.
21) Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote
Another lifesaver in my 20s as I began to navigate life sober and learned to start setting boundaries. Fletcher, a former English teacher turned best selling crime novelist and someone you’d want to be far away from irl because she finds dead bodies EVERYWHERE, had a no nonsense, assertive but kind and just presence that meant that even when being threatened, she stood her ground and always solved the mystery – I either dreamed or read that Octavia Spencer would be playing Jessica Fletcher in a reboot and live in hope. READ MORE
Such a tiny person. Such a HUGE heart. And such a HOPEFUL message for the world about reparations, repair, healing and transformation. Remembering that EVERYthing is ultimately a call for love.
I’d love to hear what YOU put on when you need a burst of inspiration, empowerment and imaginary resilience
I didn’t have room for them all in my 22 and feel SICK about the amazing fictional characters I’ve had to miss out but hope this helps you think of some of your own.
Feel free to email email@example.com to let me know.
And please feel free to share this post on your social media etc so others who may find it helpful can read it.
Happy International Women’s Day 2022!