Some smashed female stereotypes. Some were unbelievably quirky. And Some kicked some serious butt. These are 10 female TV characters who raised hell and made us love them.
Buffy, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, embodied all of the traits of the most popular girl in high school—she was blonde, peppy, did some cheerleading and loved to shop—but she eventually realized her duties as the vampire slayer would mean she didn’t get to be that popular girl. And she was OK with that! Plus she befriended the “nerds” and was seriously ripped.
At a time in TV when most women characters were demure, never stepped out of line and, in general were just the sidekick to the husbands for whom the scripts were written, Lucy Ricardo, played by Lucille Ball, was constantly raising hell, coming up with hilarious schemes, and had the show based around her. This time, the husband was the sidekick!
Buffay of “Friends,” played by Lisa Kudrow, would be the first of a long line of truly quirky, off-the-wall females who really couldn’t be put into any particular box. Later you’d have Leslie Knope of “Parks and Recreation” and Jess of “New Girl.” They’re nerdy, but they’re not nerds, and they’re weird but instead of it repelling people, it endears them.
Do we think Stark of “Game of Thrones” would need some serious therapy if she grew up in today’s world? Sure. But for the time she lived in, Stark, played by Maisie Williams, adapted to the get-over-it-and-move-on mentality that was crucial to survival. Plus, she gets away with pretending to be a boy for a while.
By the ’90s, female TV characters had come a long way from the demure housewives of the ’50s characters, but most still cared if a guy didn’t call them back or if they were seen yelling at someone on the street. Not Elaine of “Seinfeld”! Actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine character had a wonderful unbothered attitude we’d barely seen in female TV characters until that time.
Before “Veronica Mars,” most crime show cast the main investigator/detective/sheriff as a man, and he had a charming female colleague. But Mars burst onto the crime TV scene and not only was she the main character, but she was a petite blonde played by Kristen Bell. Not the usual typecast for females on crime TV at the time.
Tina Fey played Liz Lemon of “30 Rock,” in a evolved version of Phoebe Buffay. Liz is the woman who doesn’t actually have five cats, but is aware people assume she has five cats and doesn’t care. In other words, she is the proud, self-aware spinster who makes spinsterdom look kind of fun.
Before NCIS came along, just about any woman on TV with black hair, thick bangs and a rockabilly look was likely going to be a real ball-busting, tough girl with a chip on her shoulder. Then along came Abby Sciuto, played by Pauley Perrette, and she was like, “I’m actually really smart and sweet and just happen to like this look.”
Do you remember Christina Applegate’s younger years? She played Kelly Bundy, the rebellious teenage daughter on “Married with Children.” But unlike most teenage daughters on family sitcoms until that time, she didn’t have to be coerced, against her better judgment, out the window by the guy next door. She was a troublemaker all on her own!
Kaley Cuoco played Penny on the comedy series, “The Big Bang Theory,” and she may be honored and praised more by men than by women. To women, she’s your regular hot, witty, slightly conceited-but-cute girl who probably graduated from college in Southern California. But to men, she is the hot girl who gave the nerdy guys a chance! Not just on TV — everywhere.