This past TV season was pretty good to its bold, boss female characters. On "Game Of Thrones," Daenerys Targaryen claimed her rightful destiny by taking flight on a giant dragon; Cookie Lyon literally dragged everyone on "Empire," and Kerry Washington kills it regularly on "Scandal."
But according to a new survey by entertainment marketing agency Trailer Park, none of these amazing women hold a candle to the most popular female character of the year: Detective Olivia Benson from "Law and Order; Special Victims Unit," as played by the amazing Mariska Hargitay.
To determine this, Trailer Park took all the 17 highest rated TV shows that passed the Bechdel-Wallace test this past season -- meaning that they all featured two women talking about something other than a man -- and asked survey takers to name their favorite female character. Benson practically swept the results by a giant margin, only failing to come out on top among 18-24 year olds (they like Daenerys more).
While it might be ridiculous to think of anybody being more beloved than the indominable Cookie Lyon, it actually makes so much sense if you think about just how rad Olivia Benson is.
First of all, a lot of us literally grew up with her.NBC
"Law and Order: SVU" is now approaching its 17th season, and unlike her co-stars Chris Meloni, Ice-T or Richard Belzer, Benson has been a part of the force from the very beginning and still kicks ass today -- heck, now she's the official commanding officer of the SVU. For some people, there has never been a time where she hasn't been kicking butt and comforting rape survivors on television, and that kind of exposure to a single character can be incredibly formative.
You can always find her on TV no matter what time it is.NBC
When you're home sick from school or unable to sleep at night, Benson will always be there to help you out. In fact, "SVU" has been my go-to television show to fall asleep to for years. That might be weird considering the subject matter, but there's something about how Olivia always seems like she knows just what to do that's surprisingly relaxing.
She's taught us so much about misogyny and rape culture.NBC
"SVU" is by no means a perfect show and often relies on gritty shock value, but it was the first program that taught me all the stuff we need to unlearn when we talk about rape -- like how it shouldn't matter what a woman is wearing, that being drunk doesn't negate the importance of consent, or that it's possible for men to be raped too.
Olivia is confident enough to tell a fellow police officer off when they blame someone for their own rape, and we're sure she inspired a whole generation of feminists with her efforts both on and off screen to systematically undo rape culture and get survivors the help they need.
She makes us feel safe and protected.NBC
Unfortunately, in the real world it's still difficult to get justice in a rape case. But every time Benson sits down to talk to a witness, you know that she cares so much and that she's going to try her hardest to make things better.
Even when she's in a sour mood or making mistakes (nobody ever said she was perfect, after all!), she's always so full of passion and empathy that you can't help but root for her no matter what. And of course, she's got that intense maternal stare she gives the survivors she's interviewing -- it's almost like she's trying to become your tough-love-style mom through the TV screen, and it absolutely gets me every time.
She's besties with Taylor Swift.WireImage
Okay, Mariska Hargitay is, but it totally counts. Long before the two met, T-Swift was obsessed with "Law and Order" and even named her cat after Olivia Benson. Since their paths crossed, Hargitay appeared in Taylor's amazing "Bad Blood" video and went up on stage with her at the VMAs when she accepted her award.
And let's face it, she's a stone-cold badass.NBC
Girl's been through some unbelievable rough times, but she always pulls through. It's not easy, and when she goes through trauma it affects her deeply -- like that time she almost got raped while undercover and took an entire season of therapy and counseling to adjust -- but she never takes BS from anybody, and she's the one you want on your team when things start to go bad.