For every "Mysteries of Laura" about a woman struggling to "have it all," there's a "How To Get Away With Murder," about a woman who cares so little for your regard that you can only shrink in the face of her independence and strength.
Here's a round up some of the most female-friendly TV shows of the season -- both new and returning -- and their breakout characters, in no particular order:
1. "How To Get Away With Murder": Annalise Keating
ShondaLand's latest only just premiered on Sept. 25, but it's a clear standout of the fall season. While we haven't yet learned enough about the rest of the characters in the cast, it's clear that Viola Davis' Annalise Keating is a take-no-prisoners type who refuses to conform to the expectations of the people around her, and to the expectations of the audience at home. She has her flaws, but so does every male main character on television (Will McAvoy, "The Newsroom"); unlike those men, however, her flaws humanize her, instead of romanticizing in a way that's ultimately damaging to men and women both.
2. "Sleepy Hollow": Abbie Mills
"Sleepy Hollow" is incredible. Not only is main character Abbie Mills a woman of color, but she's also a complex and multifaceted kicker of asses. So, too, is sister Jenny Mills who was placed into psychiatric care as a teen because she refused to lie about having seen a demon in the woods. Positive female role models can exist in supernatural shows, too! (Ahem, "Supernatural.")
Furthermore, while a lot of the show's drama (and fandom) centers around the will-they-won't-they tension in Abbie's relationship with partner Ichabod Crane, Abbie's value to Ichabod lies not in her attractiveness but in her cleverness and strength.
3. "The Good Wife": Kalinda Sharma
"The Good Wife" is a treasure trove of well-rounded female characters. Christine Baranski and Julianna Margulies earn most of the attention and accolades, but it's Archie Punjabi's Kalinda Sharma who wins my heart. Kalinda, a bisexual woman of color, is defined by neither. Instead, she is a headstrong, life-ruining force to be reckoned with.
However, she's not just a caricature of a strong woman -- she has her weaknesses. Namely, in her friend Alicia, and in her sometimes-lover Cary Agos. A woman doesn't need to be devoid of emotions or weaknesses in order to show strength, and the ladies of "The Good Wife" are proof of that.
4. "Orphan Black": Clone Club
While "Orphan Black" may be lacking in its representation of color, the show is admittedly hindered by the fact that one actress, Tatiana Maslany, plays most of its characters. Much of the credit for "Orphan Black"s successful female characters rests on Tatiana's earnest and complex portrayals, but it's in the writing, as well. Sure, Alison might fall into the "soccer mom" category and Cosima into the "geek/nerd" category, but the characters and sexualities represented in the show are varied, honest, complicated, and human.
5. "Orange Is The New Black": The Whole Cast
Of course, no list about positive representation for women on television would be complete without a mention of "OITNB." The women of Litchfield are entirely devoid of any influence of the male gaze. They can be messy, ugly, and vulgar, but they can also be sweet, kind, and misunderstood. They're representative of actual human experiences and emotions and, like others on this list, these women are not reduced to caricatures.
There's no "hooker with a heart of gold" residing within Litchfield's walls -- sometimes, these women are straight-up irredeemable, but they're all valid. It's not often that women get to feel valid, or like their experiences matter. "OITNB" has also acted as a platform for issues of sexuality and gender in a way that no other medium has ever been able to accomplish on such a wide scale, and there's no question that the show is changing minds and attitudes, bit by bit.
6. "Scandal": Olivia Pope
Let's be honest: "Scandal" could be way more kind to women. Characters like Mellie are victimized for having affairs while characters like Fitz -- you know, the president -- are depicted as diehard romantics for the same behavior. (Despite the fact that Fitz doesn't understand the word "no" and he like, cannot run a country.) Can you imagine if the roles were reversed, if a woman president was more concerned with her romantic relationships than with campaigning and policymaking? The show can be just as damaging to men as it is to women.
(Here's a tip: If you reverse male and female roles and it sounds totally ridiculous, it's probably sexist.)
However, Shonda Rimes did something amazing with Olivia Pope -- she created a woman of color who is more feared than the president for her calm, methodical ability to "handle" any political scandal thrown at her and to ruin anyone who stands in her way. It's so important for women and girls of all ages to be able to imagine themselves as powerful and capable -- not so easy when the landscape is dominated by men and their subservient or nagging wives.
7. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine": Rosa Diaz
Finally, let's talk comedy. FOX's breakout hit may have Andy Samberg in the starring role, but the cast of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is a true ensemble which proves that you don't need to resort to stereotypes ("Big Bang Theory") to win critical and commercial favor. Not only are its women hilarious and complex, but the show's writing can tackle tougher issues. In its first season, Charles Boyle doggedly pursues fellow detective Rosa Diaz while she makes no secret of her disinterest in a romantic relationship. The "joke" goes on too long -- his attentions cause her to withdraw into herself as he continues to ignore the word "no." However, the writers seemed to realize that portraying borderline stalkers as hopeless romantics is kind of damaging.
In the latter half of the season, Boyle apologizes to Rosa for his persistence; she forgives him, and they become friends. However, the apology was not just from Boyle to Rosa -- it sounded like an apology from "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" to its audience. This moment in television showed that it can be possible to course-correct -- to admit a mistake, to apologize, and to move on and try to do better. We're not all perfect feminists or perfect intersectionalists, and the willingness to learn and adapt is as important as successful representation.
These shows are just the tip of the iceberg. As audiences continue to respond to well-rounded and well-written female characters, networks will continue to provide them. Of course, heinous missteps seem to occur every season, and while some of them get cancelled in short order ("Work It," "Dads") others garner massive audiences while perpetuating awful, sexist stereotypes (MacKenzie McHale, "The Newsroom; Barney's various paramours, "How I Met Your Mother,"). We've come a long way -- let's keep moving forward.
So, who are your favorite females in television? Which other shows portray strong women, and which others do women a disservice? Let us know your thoughts!