characters, favorites, heroines, Life Talk, TV, Watch

Television Heroines

As promised, the companion post to my piece on favorite tv heroes. This time, it’s all about the ladies! Without further ado, I present my top five favorite tv heroines.

Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls: Oddly enough, I never really liked Rory on this show. You’d think I would, right? Quiet, bookish, ambitions of writing … yet I always felt like she came across as this spoiled, pampered little princess who assumed everything would go her way and couldn’t handle it when life got a bit difficult. Lorelai, on the other hand, is the kind of mom I can only dream about being. She’s fun and loving and kind and savvy and present (not just physically, but wholly); she’s not perfect but she never quits trying; she has a life of her own but still always puts her kid first. And she has great hair and a razor-sharp wit. Yep, pretty awesome.

Zoe Washburne, Firefly: I love Zoe. I want to be Zoe when I grow up. She is a rarity in television, an action heroine who is also happily married. Her combination of deadly combat skills, fierce loyalty, dry wit, and loving fidelity is amazing. Plus she gets awesome one-liners. My mom likes River the best, and I know a lot of people really love Kaylee (and don’t get me wrong, I like both of them, too – I think Kaylee would make a terrific best friend), but for me, it’s all about Zoe. She’s strong and still human, and that’s hard to find in any kind of heroine these days, television or literary; most are either all strength and no human emotions, or all vulnerability and weakness with a side helping of unrealistic warrior skills. Not Zoe. I also really love the fact that she’s a sci-fi action heroine who does not spend the entirety of the show running around half-dressed. And she’s a really, really good shot.
Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager: I know I complained in my heroes post about the fact that Voyager focused almost solely on Captain Janeway … but that doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s still a fantastic character. A female starship captain who never exhibits any signs of belligerence or insecurity toward the men under her command, or the other officers in Starfleet; a leader thrown with a totally unconventional crew across the galaxy, trying to get them home without ever going against her principles; a captain trying to maintain protocol with the crew while still providing them with the stability and comfort they need; an explorer faced with unprecedented challenges … as long as she had her coffee, Janeway took everything in her stride and faced it with humor and dignity.
Detective Kate Beckett, Castle: I only recently started watching Castle, and so far have only made it through Season 1. Season 2 should be coming to me through inter-library loan any day now. (edit: just picked it up from the library. can’t wait to start watching.) So I’m not sure how Beckett’s character developed in later seasons, but based on Season 1, I think she’s fabulous. She’s tough but compassionate, which I love in any character, male or female. She doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone. I love watching her get the best of Castle in any of their exchanges, and the developing friendship (which I know from things I’ve read turns to romance later, but is really great as a friendship, too) between them is so much fun to watch.
Donna Noble, Doctor Who: This one is kind of cheating. Donna’s not technically one of the stars of this show, more of a supporting character (and that only for one season, weep, weep) … but I love her so much that I don’t care. I really liked Rose; I would have liked Martha if she hadn’t let her inferiority complex turn her into such a drip; I loved Sarah Jane in the one episode of the new series (no, I haven’t watched any of the classic series, and Netflix doesn’t have The Sarah Jane Adventures, so I need to start borrowing those from the library too before I can know more about her); but Donna has turned out to be my favorite so far (I’m in the middle of Series 4). She’s the perfect foil for the Doctor, in her humor and compassion and strength. She’s not in love with him (thank goodness!) but their friendship is so, so strong, and they both grow and gain so much from the other. I even love her abrasiveness, the fact that she doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Her relationship with her grandfather is just icing on the cake. I know how her story arc ends (yes, I read spoilers, especially when I’m watching old seasons of a show), and I’m finding myself really reluctant to finish watching Series 4, because I don’t want to leave her behind. Well, I don’t really want to say goodbye to the Tenth Doctor, either, if I’m being perfectly honest.

It seems that my favorite female characters share the same traits I admire most in male characters – strength blended with compassion, the ability to stand up for themselves and for others, loyalty, a ready wit, and a thorough love for adventure. Being ready and willing to take out the bad guy doesn’t hurt, either.

16 thoughts on “Television Heroines”

  1. The ones I know, Lorelai Gilmore and Kathryn Janeway, I totally agree with. I want to add one from a show I just recently became obsessed with, Dr. Miranda Bailey on Grey's Anatomy. She is the heart and soul of Seatle Grace. She sets everyone right. No one wants on her bad side.

  2. The only ones of those shows that I've seen is Castle. I'll have to check the others at Netflix. One of my favorite TV characters is Mary in Downton Abbey. She's head-strong and sometimes foolish (even cruel once or twice). But she actually takes responsibility for her failures and shows a development that you rarely see in TV. I hope, hope, hope that the writers stay true to her character and its growth in the next season.

  3. I will GLADLY be your Kaylee! We've been having a Firefly marathon– "marathon" in parents-of-young-children terms, which means "a couple episodes every evening"– the past few days. And I really can't get over how much I love Kaylee– we ARE a lot alike, except for the amount of libido, which I notice a lot of people name first as if it's one of Kaylee's defining traits, but that ignores her much more noticeable traits, like her tendency to see the good in everyone and everything, her enthusiasm, her compassion, her geeky energy and complete love of machines… But I love Zoe, too. She and Wash are POSSIBLY my favorite TV couple– they're at least ONE of them. The one time I was inspired to write Firefly fanfic– I wrote a little of it, planned a lot more out in my head– was from Zoe's point of view, and it was mostly about exploring all those apparent-contradictions-but-really-just-well-roundedness in her character. Actually it was about how she and Wash got together, but that was the underlying theme.I never thought of it, but I agree with you about Rory Gilmore– she did bother me a bit, particularly more later in the series, the entitlement aspect became more evident. But I did love their banter. That was one of my favorite shows for a long time!Of course the biggest character you're missing is the counterpart of the biggest character you were missing on your Heroes post– Dr. Dana Scully. Not to pressure you to watch the X-Files again. But yes, that is what I'm doing, you must watch the X-Files. But seriously, I've always considered Scully one of the greatest TV characters ever– talk about well-rounded, she's a highly scientific skeptic and yet a sometimes-more-devout-than-other-times Catholic, devoted to her career and yet with a maternal instinct and *slight spoiler?* serious concerns about her fertility, tough and vulnerable and totally believable as both–and she embodies every one of the traits you've listed in your concluding paragraph to boot. YOU WILL LOVE HER, YES.

  4. In Season 1, at least, Castle makes me want to slap him more than anything. He's funny, and I LOVE the relationship between him and his daughter (and him and his mother), but he doesn't grab me the way Beckett does. Not yet, anyway.

  5. I watched a few episodes of Grey's Anatomy a few years back, but I just couldn't get into it. The only medical drama I ever really liked was Diagnosis Murder.The last time I went on a GG marathon, I was surprised to find how much empathy I had with Emily, of all people. Not that I wanted to be her, but that I could really understand what drove her and how hard things were for her. I still don't really like her, but I can at least have more sympathy for her.

  6. I honestly hated Mary in Series 1. I had a lot of sympathy for Edith – Mary had everything and always had since they were children, and Edith had nothing, and Mary still tried to squeeze every drop of potential happiness away from her. Not even to steal it for herself, but just to take it away from Edith. SO CRUEL.But she did grow and change so much in Series 2, and I ended up liking her much better by the end of that one.

  7. Yes, sometimes I think the relationship between Zoe and Wash is my favorite part of the whole tv show (and the reason I have yet to watch the movie, because of my darn fondness for spoilers). They are so very real, and yes they fight, but they also love each other so deeply, and they have fun together too, and altogether they just rock.I love how Kaylee wears her heart on her sleeve. I admire that, too, because I keep mine tightly locked away, and I think her way is a BETTER way to live, and harder to keep up. But I still can't help but love Zoe more :-)

  8. I liked Lorelai too, though I thought she could sometimes come across as a bit petulant. Too bad the CW snuffed the show out w/o a more satisfying Lorelai/Luke resolution – really liked those two together!

  9. I found Lorelai more irritating in the later seasons, definitely. "Petulant" is the perfect word! I am still so frustrated by the introduction of the April story arc – it was such an artificial device to drive Luke and Lorelai apart, and then to compound the error by ending the show with their relationship still a big question mark was not the brightest move ever.

  10. My sister-in-law, who has a personality more like Zoe, LOVES Kaylee, while my favorite character is Zoe- who is everything I'm not. Funny how it seems to work that way in who we admire. We just started watching Castle too. So far, I don't really like Beckett. She just seems like she's trying too hard to NOT like him, when she obviously does. Your take on Donna is exactly what I think too! She was such a breath of fresh air after that "drip" (perfect word choice) Martha Jones. And as one of your other commenters mentioned, don't forget Scully!

  11. X-Files is on my list of shows to start watching, I promise. Probably this fall/winter, or whenever I start working on Grace's quilt.I wanted to like Martha so much, but oh, she was so annoying. It's interesting how she was always at her strongest when she and the Doctor were separated during their adventures, while Donna is at her best with the Doctor. And Donna would have clocked the Doctor if he'd started going on in front of her about how perfect of a companion Rose was!

  12. My mom reminded me that I'd left out Abby from NCIS – oops! She definitely should have made it onto the list. And someone else asked about Buffy – while personally Buffy drove me nuts, she is a pretty spectacular character. Guess there's more out there than I originally thought!

  13. That's a tricky one. Buffy is great in a lot of ways – fantastic dialogue, remarkable moral dilemmas, realistic characters. On the other hand, it's also got a lot of stuff that, at risk of sounding like a prude, does make me uncomfortable. The later seasons, especially, lose a lot of the zest and genius that characterized the early seasons, and devolve into a lot of cheap tricks to shock the viewer without actually getting in depth with anything.So I guess I would perhaps cautiously recommend it with reservations, and with the warning that it's nowhere near as good as Firefly.

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