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PhilSTAR L!fe recommends: TV series with strong female character leads

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Mar 06, 2021 5:29 am

There's nothing more inspiring than seeing ambitious women make significant changes. And thankfully, the television has a wealth of powerful women telling stories that almost anyone can relate to.

If you need a little motivation as we celebrate International Women's Day this Mar. 8, the PhilSTAR L!fe team lists down the most empowering female-led TV shows you can stream online!

The Bold Type

I can't get enough of The Bold Type! With some bits and pieces inspired by Cosmopolitan magazine editor Joanna Coles, it features three badass ladies working for a women's magazine. Whether you're in the same field or not, this series can surely touch your heart as it shows how they work their way up the career ladder as they survive a myriad of challenges in life, love, and friendship.

— Brooke Villanueva, content producer

The Bold Type, which became available on Netflix Philippines recently, is about Jane, Sutton, and Kat, three young women who work for fictional women's publication called Scarlet. I knew of the show before I watched it, but I didn't know a lot about it. So I expected it to be a A Devil Wears Prada clone (which I wouldn't mind; I watch that movie at least once a year). It kind of felt like it, too, in its first few minutes. 

In the first episode, we see Jane (Katie Stevens) during her first day as writer for the magazine, after spending three years as an assistant. For her first assignment as a writer, Jane was asked by editor-in-chief Jacquieline (Melora Hardin) to stalk her ex-boyfriend and write an article about. I thought the episode would delve into how Jane navigates what feels like a somewhat exploitative writing assignment by a Miranda Priestly knockoff. Instead, Jacqueline ends up being a stern and strict but supportive and fair boss—and even allows Jane to find closure from a previous relationship via her article.

The Bold Type is at once a journalism fantasy and a bitter taste of reality (its third season, reality catches up to Scarlet as its mother company considers turning the magazine into a magazine-only publication). Its tackling of serious issues—women reproductive health, abuse, power play in sexual relations—is also nuanced and sensitive (its season one finale reveals a character twist that is both expected and powerful). It also shows how its three young female characters treat work as an important part of their lives—but not the only important part of their lives. It has a romantic comedy-like appeal to it, and conflicts are usually solved optimistically. But it doesn’t shy away from showing how Jane, Sutton, and Kat work hard in order to achieve their goals. In The Bold Type, these characters don't always get everything they want, but they sure try and work hard as hell to get it.

Chuck Smith, senior writer

Ratched

Ratched is a psychological thriller series set in a post-World War II, where women’s roles in society continue to expand. 

The show’s lead character Nurse Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) is a cold, bitter and unapologetic badass woman. She may be literally “bad” for terrorizing patients and co-workers at the mental institution that she works at but she gets the job done (with an impeccable sartorial style), with eyes on the prize—rescue her brother who was admitted to the facility for killing several priests.

Nurse Ratched is to be feared by fans of machismo because she carries characteristics that they mostly detest—strong women who are in control and in positions of power.

Ratched, a prequel to then 1975 film adaptation One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (based on a 1962 novel by Ken  Kesey with the same name), also trains the spotlight on the strong women characters in the cast.

There’s Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon), the governor’s press secretary and campaign manager and Nurse Ratched’s love interest; Nurse Bucket (Judy Davis), who took over the mental institution from Dr. Hanover (Jon Jon Briones); and Leonore Osgood, an heiress who hired a hitman to kill Dr. Hanover for disfiguring her mentally ill son after a botched experimental treatment.

— Pinky Icamen, content producer

The Morning Show

AppleTV+'s The Morning Show has got to be one of the most intriguing and refreshing TV shows that I have seen in the longest time. This drama mirrors relevant issues like #MeToo movement, sexism, and abuse of power in the workplace. The series follows the behind-the-scenes story of a morning news program that went into disarray after its news anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) has been fired for alleged sexual misconduct.

The series' female leads, veteran anchor Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and field reporter-turned-news-anchor Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), are two people with opposite ideals and feelings towards their work. As they struggle to move forward with their careers after the scandal, these women are pushed to perform beyond their personal objectives.

— Camille Santiago, associate editor

WandaVision

Wanda Maximoff may be the most powerful superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—but she’s also the most vulnerable. WandaVision was Marvel’s opening to the multiverse just as much as it was a series about bottomless grief and the inability to come to terms with it. Wanda dealt with her grief over Vision’s death by creating an alternate reality and ultimately sacrificing her happiness and letting it go. That’s growth—and that’s as badass as her super power.

The penultimate episode gave us Vision’s heartbreaking line, “What is grief but love persevering?” And in the finale last night Wanda said, “You are my hope, but mostly you are my love.” Plus, she got her badass new costume, a modern Scarlet Witch comic version.

— Tanya Lara, Features head

Russian Doll

Russian Doll features Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) as she relieves the same night in a seemingly endless time loop that always culminates in some manner of death. As the title alludes to the Matryoshka doll, each episode seemingly peels into the layer of why things are seemingly stuck in a crazy nonsense, funny, and even morbid time loop. Lyonne’s character was equal parts funny, morbid, and contemplative as she digs layer by layer, death by death, into why things are as crazy as they are. At the outset, it’s understandable to see the plot as a derivative of Groundhog Day. Like the 1993 classic, there is also redemption and a bit of resolution at the end of the day as it moves from death, transformation, to rebirth. But Russian Doll, which has more latitude for nuance due to it being a series, may just be a bit more wacky and funny than its granddaddy.

Bim Santos, News head

Queen’s Gambit

To say that Anya Taylor-Joy who played the role of Beth Harmon is dauntlessly powerful is an understatement. The talent, potential, and skill that it takes to maneuver in a field where men only see themselves dominating is certainly an act that raised the flag of women. Since chess became popular to the males, it is expected that a female who dared to enter their playing ground will be closely monitored. Since men are full of greed and pride, they wouldn't let their walls down, especially for a newbie who looked like someone who came to play leisurely. Aside from this angle of the story, the instance where Beth received helped from her foster mother in navigating her way through the top just goes to show that even if a husband, or a foster father in Beth's case never showed interest on her and what she does, women are still capable of succeeding.

Danicah Faith Lagman, social media producer

Fleabag

I found this show when I was in need of salvation from the typical Netflix binges and hungry for real representation. Phoebe Waller-Bridge created, wrote, and starred in this 2-season show that breaks the fourth wall as much as it breaks viewers’ hearts. Fleabag, the titular character, isn’t badass in the way we always see female characters—like the rest of us, she’s just out here overcoming deep-seethed trauma, and giving the universe a knowing "see what I mean?" glance along the way. 

— Saab Lariosa, social media producer