These days, there are so many shows on streaming services that, with a click of a button, we have access to an endless supply of entertainment, making it quite easy to get lost in the sea of TV. But even in this day and age, female main characters are still sometimes portrayed as one-dimensional, or they are overshadowed by their male counterparts. Below are eight shows of all genres led by female characters who are nuanced, dynamic, and emotionally complicated — and, above all else, real.
1. WandaVision. This newest show is jam packed with strong women: Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Rambeau), Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and Agnes/Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn). Wanda is the second most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (with Captain Marvel being the most powerful). Monica thrives as one of the few women who works for a male-dominated government agency called S.W.O.R.D. She’s tough, strong-willed, and outspoken. Darcy is smart and witty, having her doctorate in astrophysics, and puts the men in S.W.O.R.D in their places. Agatha battles her own turmoil and trauma from her past, pushing herself to be as strong as possible. This show can be watched on Disney+.
2. Harley Quinn. We know her as Joker’s obsessed girlfriend, but this show has a different spin on Harley Quinn. It centers around none other than Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) herself. After her breakup with Joker (Alan Tudyk), Harley embarks on a journey to create her own identity. With the help of her best friend Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), she forms her own team of misfits, going on misadventures and creating chaos in Gotham. This animated series depicts Harley as a strong and independent person who is able to bounce back up after heartbreak. Both her strengths and her weaknesses are on full display. In season 1, episode 9, she is baited by Joker, choosing him over Poison Ivy. Later in the episode, Joker abandons Harley again, which snaps her back into reality. She and Poison Ivy eventually rekindle their friendship in episode 12. If you want to keep up with Harley’s antics, watch it on HBO MAX.
3. Dollface. After a breakup with her boyfriend of five years, Jules Wiley (Kat Dennings) needs to figure out how to re-enter the world as a single woman. Throughout the show, we see Jules trying to cope after a breakup by repairing her friendships with Madison (Brenda Song), Stella (Shay Mitchell), and coworker Izzy (Ester Povitsky), getting her own place, and finding herself. Funny and entertaining, we see that there is life after love, that friendship can be more important than a romantic relationship, and that you will get through heartbreak. You can catch up on Dollface on Hulu.
4. I May Destroy You. A Twitter star turned novelist, this show is about a woman named Arabella Essiedu (Michaela Coel). After a day of writing a novel, Arabella accompanies her friends to a nightclub. During her time there, she ends up being sexually assaulted. The next morning, she wakes up, the night prior being fuzzy. We follow Arabella on her quest to piece together the events of that hazy night, along with the help of her best friend, Terry (Weruche Opia). Arabella doesn’t allow the sexual abuse to hold her down. She transforms the trauma into seeking out the truth of that night. She exhibits strength through her being able to work through the trauma. Arabella and Terry relied on each other to decode that night, without any help. She is independent and fierce, not allowing anything to weigh her down. Watch this thriller on HBO MAX.
5. The Magicians. This show follows a group of magicians who discover a fictitious world called Fillory. Among the magicians are Alice Quinn (Olivia Taylor Dudely), Julia Wicker (Stella Maeve), Margo Hansen (Summer Bishil), and Kady Orloff-Diaz (Jade Tailor). All of them overcome the hurdles life threw at them. Despite an unstable upbringing, Alice remains strong. She was once a sweet woman, but that all changes when she dies and gets resurrected. As a result, her lust for knowledge intensifies, thus leading to her downfall. Julia learns about having magic. Being rejected by the magical college of Brakebills spirals her into a depression. When she learns about a group of dangerous, untrained witches called “The Hedge Witches,” she joins them and ends up getting raped by a god. Over time, Alice and Julia’s personalities flip. Alice’s kind personality gets consumed by power while Julia’s thirst for power quenches with humility.
Meanwhile, the sharp-tongued, cold-hearted Margo didn’t care about anyone except herself and her best friend, Eliot (Hale Appleman). Losing her best friend and her eye melts her heart. The once uncaring Margo now cares about people, which is especially seen with a side character named Josh Hoberman (Trevor Einhorn). Kady was always nonchalant and apathetic. This changes when she loses her mother to the Hedge Witches and her boyfriend, Penny (Arjun Gupta.) She begins to be devoured by her thirst for revenge. Over time, her soul does start to soften, becoming more caring, like Margo. These women have experienced loss and death, which has molded them into the people they are—whether for better or worse. This bewitching series can be streamed on Netflix.
6. The Vampire Diaries. Even though this iconic show is older, it remains timeless. In the supernatural town of Mystic Falls, we are introduced to strong, kickass women main characters: Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), Caroline Forbes (Candice King), Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham), and eventually Katherine Pierce (also Nina Dobrev). Each woman has loved, lost, went toe-to-toe with death, undergone transformations (literally—Elena, Caroline, and Katherine turned into vampires, and Bonnie learned of her magical witch ancestry and discovered her powers), and came out stronger in their own way. Elena, Caroline, and Bonnie never stopped caring about people, their love only growing stronger with time. They become even more caring and compassionate, going out of their way for their loved ones to the point of sacrificing themselves. Katherine, on the other hand, is shown to be the opposite, revealing herself to be ruthless and selfish. The pain she endured transforms her into a bitter, heartless person who only cares about herself. An infamous statement she said to Elena in season two when Klaus was heading to Mystic Falls was “better you die than I.” The life she experienced caused her will to live to become stronger. All of these ladies managed to overcome all of their turmoil, turning them into the women they are today. Watch this supernatural drama on Netflix.
7. The Flight Attendant. This new show revolves around an alcoholic flight attendant named Cassandra “Cassie” Bowden (Kaley Cuoco). After a drunken night, she wakes up to a dead man in her room with no recollection of what happened. Throughout the show, she tries to piece together that night all on her own while trying to figure out who the killer is. Over time, Cassie grows as a character, vowing never to drink again for her brother and niece. She faces twists and turns, and although she makes bad choices, she’s given space to grow and develop into a complex, strong character. Stream this mystery on HBO MAX.
8. Killing Eve. Violence, love, and feminism—this show is about Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) trying to capture the notorious psychotic villain named Villianelle (Jodie Comer). Throughout the series, Eve is faced with adversity and sexism in the British Intelligence Agency, a male-dominated workplace. When she gets bored of her job, she develops an interest in the psychology of assassins and asks for a new position in the agency. This leads to her getting fired and hired on to a different branch. The new branch is trying to track down Villianelle, and when they fail to do so, Eve is the only one up to the task. Over the course of chase, Eve and Villianelle develop an obsession with each other. In this show, Eve doesn’t allow getting fired to get under her skin. She knows her worth and abilities, which leads her to tracking down her enemy. This badass show can be watched on Hulu.
In short, these shows focus on badass, strong women who portray incredibly nuanced characters. Through these shows, we are able to witness women accomplishing whatever they desire— getting through that breakup; overcoming trauma; learning that there is life after loss; and becoming stronger versions of themselves.
Top Photo: Screenshot of I May Destroy You via YouTube
More from BUST