When you’re us, enjoying TV can be exhausting. We’re always on high alert, you and me, ready to roll our eyes, vent our spleens or just feel a bit sad when we find for the billionth time that female characters are barely being treated like characters at all.
So it’s a pleasure when we get to watch female characters with agency, scope and realism. And it’s a pleasure to celebrate them!
That’s one of the purposes of my new blog, Good Characters and it’s also the reason why I’m all up in your face at Lucy’s kind invitation, to make a song and dance about six unique female characters from TV shows.
1) Lagertha from Vikings
Portrayed with grit by Katheryn Winnick, Lagertha is a fierce, impulsive Northman who loves war but targets peace and she’s a fascination partly because she actively earns her prominence. She shouldn’t have to, of course: she’s an uncrushable standalone presence. But she spends early seasons tangled up in the storylines of male characters before finally breaking out with force and precision. Lagertha becomes a role model, an Earl, a legend. She shouldn’t have to prove that her story is worth telling, but she does, and it’s an epic. MORE: 9 Ways To Celebrate The Progress Of Female Characters, Writers & Makers
Freema Agyeman’s Martha is my favourite Doctor Who companion, and I believe she’s all about having agency beyond the man she loves. The key is that she was exceptional before him, and exceptional after him. She was a tireless medic with an exhausting family, then when she leaves the TARDIS she frequently recurs as a decisive, self-sufficient livewire. But what I like best is her goodness. Martha doesn’t have to be arrogant to be confident, nor rude to be absolute. She’s a good ‘un. Utterly loveable. MORE: 5 Ways To Write A Strong Female Character
3) Cersei from Game of Thrones
My favourite aspect of Cersei, who is played by Lena Headey and needs no introduction, is that she’s bloody sick of the lack of female power in Westeros. Oh, we’re totally with her on that. Despite her proud malice, we smiled when she told her husband: “Perhaps I should wear the armour and you the gown.” In this case, the armour represents power, respect and freedom, while the gown represents a cage. Cersei is confined by her culture but rebels persistently; that is hugely admirable, despite how many lives she ruins in the process. She will never stop fighting. MORE: 5 Ways To Write A Complex Female Character
Post-apocalyptic drama The 100 is a feminist oasis, it really is. You can feel safe in the hands of these writers, who give us a momentous ensemble of complicated characters — among them Commander Lexa, who is incidentally a girl. Played by Alycia Debnam-Carey, Lexa has much to teach our female lead about utilitarianism, and in return Clarke has much to teach Lexa about respecting what the heart can do. They’re a fascinating pair, and I’m certain Lexa’s tenacious stoicism is ready to be shattered. MORE: Writersroom Assistant @TeelaJBrown talks female characters on @The100
5) Carol from The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead runs on adrenaline, not character development. Which is why it’s all the more impressive that the show’s most complex, evolved, riveting personality is a woman in her forties. Played by Melissa McBride, Carol begins as a familiar abused housewife, meek and obedient; she gradually transforms into a commanding, strategic, physically competent warrior. She’s a twisted butterfly and she’s earned her survival a thousand times. MORE: 5 Reasons “Missing” Female Characters Might Not Actually Be Missing After All (Plus What Writers Can Do Instead)
She’s bold, sweary, and played by Zawe Ashton: that’s why we appreciate Katherine. But it’s also because she represents an unlucky generation. The twentysomethings of today are indulged but disenfranchised, but we laugh about it because if we didn’t then we’d throw ourselves under a boat. Despite her professional efforts being eroded by public spending cuts, and despite her personal life being a familiar mess, civil servant Katherine has a vice-grip on her integrity. Commendable. Terrifying. Increasingly impossible. Please don’t throw yourself under a boat, Katherine. MORE: 33 Experts share Their Notable Female Characters Of Recent Years
If you’re game for further, deeper rambles about the personalities above, please find them on my blog, Good Characters. And in the meantime, let’s keep celebrating complicated female characters on TV. Some of them are right under our noses and some require a bit of digging. But let’s go ahead and dig! There’s gold to unearth.
BIO: Ellie is a graduate from the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, specialising in television. CLICK HERE for her Good Characters blog, which is updated weekly and follow her on twitter at @EllieDangerous, where character suggestions for her blog are welcome.
Want EVEN MORE good characters?
Then check out The B2W screenwriting books! I break down role functions and motivations for genre characters in Writing And Selling Thriller Screenplays; plus I place female characters, writers and directors at the heart of the case studies in Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays. Click HERE or on the pics. Enjoy!