From the beautiful and fierce star of the show to the less noticeable, slightly awkward girl in the background, our television screens have been graced by the presence of memorable female characters. These are some of the ladies who have stood out for me over the years, transporting me from real world into fantasy land, where the fearless yet secretly vulnerable beauty saves the day and the insecure but hopelessly romantic girl-next-door snags the equally awkward man of her dreams.
I think I heard about Dark Angel for the first time from male friends, which makes perfect sense. Not only has Jessica Alba been struck by the beauty wand, but her character, Max, offered a lethal mix of qualities which, combined, seemed to have made a rather powerful impact on teenage boys of the noughties. But Max, with her troubled background and unhappy past, full of fighting spirit, prepared to exact vengeance on those who deserve it and desperately seeking justice in the world, Max with her physical strength and endurance, willpower and determination, appealed to female audiences too. I followed the show unfailingly, wistfully dreaming of my very own Dark Angel episodes – stalking angrily and determinedly through dangerous neighbourhoods, clad head to toe in shiny leather, daring men to throw me even a hint of a suggestive stare. On finding my target, an evil villain deserving of punishment, my long, strong and flexible limbs would work together in beautiful harmony as I dove, boxed and kicked one powerful blow after the next. Having a love of Science Fiction and connecting with strong female characters who use their super powers to fight against evil, Max stuck with me after Dark Angel came to its unsuccessful end (was I the only addict out there?). Teenage me adored Max but I probably put her on a pedestal, being jealous of her good looks and how she stood out from the crowd. On learning years later that beauty isn’t found in the physical and justice isn’t mine to impart, I can remember Max as the strong, lethal and fun fictional female character that she was – and also that some women are born for leather catsuits, and some are just not.
I think, at least secretly, at some point in a girl’s life, we’ve all wanted to be a sneaky sleuth, solving crimes and mysteries, saving the day and bringing justice to the world, which is why Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy topped some girls’ favourite book/movie lists during childhood, myself included. Clearly this dream continued into my early adulthood years, which is around the time that I discovered the world of Veronica Mars, teenage daughter of a detective father whose eye for detail, nose for suspicious activity and unashamedly ballsy attitude made her gifted in the world of crime solving. Since I myself was a cheeky kid growing up, this side of her probably appealed to me as well, and I’d drift into daydreams where I too would make the world a better place, one crime at a time. Having Logan at my side wouldn’t hurt either.
I’m a big fan of comedy series’ and one of my absolute favourites is The Office, the American version. Another reason I loved The Office was because of my love for each and every one of the characters. The team behind the scenes made the characters come to life, each with distinct, hilarious personalities. I warmed to the cast from the get-go: infuriating but hilarious Michael and his geeky yet confident sidekick, Dwight, Stan as he tried to get through each day minding his own business and aiming for as little contact as possible with his colleagues, superficial Kelly and her never-ending obsession with egotistical Ryan, and the rest of them. But my absolute favourites were Jim and Pam, who, out of the bunch, seemed the most normal, making it easiest for audiences to identify with them. I had a big crush on Jim, in all his awkwardness and nerdy charm. And I loved Pam, the girl next door who, though always pushed to the background by her overbearing colleagues, won Jim’s heart as he grew to know her sweet, kind and witty ways. I rooted for my favourite TV couple all the way through, joining them on their journey from their first kiss, to their declaration of love, to their engagement and marriage. Through Pam, women could relate to the life of an ordinary girl, struggling with day-to-day issues such as work and relationships. And the ‘happy ever after’ romance story never fails to win hearts.
Although I watched the series 30 Rock on occasion years ago, it’s only recently that I’ve been going through the series from start to finish. And I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t take more interest in it when it first came on TV. Tina Fey is magic. As head writer for Saturday Night live, not only did she create 30 Rock, offering audiences a hilarious plot and quirky group of characters, but her own character, Liz Lemon, is ingenious. Like The Office, although perhaps with added excitement, 30 Rock lets audiences look in on the day-to-day life of another world, this time behind the scenes at NBC. And, though the show is through Liz’s eyes, she too is the kind of girl who probably feels more natural being in the background, another girl next door who frequently finds herself in cringingly awkward moments which most of us can relate to. She’s single, hard working, funny, often mistreated and on the hunt for love, and there is at least one aspect in there that any woman can identify with, which makes Liz another character that tugs on the heart strings and has a crowd of women rooting for her.
This is one woman for whom the word ‘background’ could bring to mind images of desktop wallpapers or the scene of a theatre production. But Gloria Delgado-Pritchett from the series Modern Family would never imagine the word to have any connection to her personal life, because Gloria is one of those people who feels most at home in the centre of attention. In reality, were Gloria to walk past women on the street, her Latin beauty and shapely curves would probably drive most women to jealousy. But should they get to know her personality, I can only imagine that those negative feelings would soon be overcome by more positive ones. Gloria is hilarious. She has a bold and fiery personality as well as total confidence, but as audiences get to know Gloria better, they see the vulnerable side of her too – her love for Jay and her son, Manny, her attempts to grow closer to the rest of Jay’s crazy family and her fierce protection of those close to her.
“Who’s that girl? Who’s that girl? It’s Jess.” The catchy theme tune to New Girl seems a perfect fit for the main character – loveable, geeky and awkward Jess. In the beginning of the series, Jess finds herself in a new situation, moving into a house with three other boy-men. Growing up with brothers myself, and having always enjoyed close male friendships, I can see the fun potential she had ahead of her – chilling with the boys, getting to better understand how the other half works and an unending amount of laughs. However, there are downsides too, of course, and Jess soon learns what these are as she starts getting settled in her new home. But Jess, being a naturally uncomfortable kind of person, seems to be quite used to finding herself in uncomfortable situations. And so the series follows a range of funny, strange and often cringe-worthy events. But through it all, Jess’s sweet nature and ability to laugh at herself tunes our hearts to her, and we eagerly watch her life unfold, hoping that the good girl will win in the end.