Female roles in movies and television shows

Nobantu Shabangu
Nobantu Shabangu

By Nobantu Shabangu

Give me a strong positive female lead in a movie or series and I’ll watch until my eyes bleed. I’ll watch because I need the fortification to believe that women can make it in high positions in life without using their charms or physical attributes but by the simple virtue of their mind. I know television and movies are not a direct reflection of reality but they do influence the way we see life and as young women and feminists the need of positive female leads representing us cannot be emphasised enough.

There are strong female characters in television that make me want to jump and scream “see women can do it too!” In The Good Wife the female lead Julianna Marguiles plays a housewife who was cheated on by her successful politician husband in public. She then has to pick up the pieces of her broken life and become the strong woman she forgot she was.

My focus is not on her but on Diane Lockhardt, a partner and co-founder of Lockhardt and Gardener (the law firm). Diane is strong, stylish, assertive, supportive and really good at her work. Diane’s work ethic misconstrued in the first season and she’s seen as being cold and possibly a lesbian when in fact she is none of those. Even in reality women who focus on their work are considered to be cold or homosexual, why women.

In The Good Wife we see that strong business minded women are normal; they have relationships, are not always gay and are actually capable conveying of all emotions without having them cloud their judgement. Diane is supportive of both male and female friends of hers, in the third season she hints to Julianna Marguile’s character that she could be made partner. I liked this moment in the show because women in real life aren’t often encouraged to be supportive of each other’s careers. Women are encouraged to fight not only men to get by, but also their female counterparts. In The Good Wife we are shown that women can be supportive of each other and haul each other up without feelings of threats or animosity towards each other.

Another good show is House of Lies; a show about consulting firms. In it the female lead a successful business woman, the only woman on the team, seems to always be ahead of the males in her consulting firm. Her boss, Don Cheadle can rely on her to seal deals. It turns out that she sleeps with the clients to get her work done; the portrayal of this character is hurtful and takes women back a few decades. She is well educated, eloquent but in the end she uses her vagina to seal the deals which is just a bad model for young aspirant business women. It conveys the message that no matter how educated, well spoken, intelligent and creative you are, all that matters in the end is what your vagina can do and not your mind. House of Lies is a good show but I hope the portrayal of this young woman will be changed with regards as to how she does business.

A new gripping and funny show is Girls written and directed by Lena Dunham. Girls is about young girls in their twenties trying to find and establish themselves. The conversations and sex scenes are not at all perfect but are more realistic than those on Sex and the City. When watching Girls you feel like you’ve been in some of those situations.

The lead actress Lena Dunham plays Hannah an insecure female who’s in a questionable relationship with her boyfriend, she is also a struggling writer and she has no job. Lena’s portrayal of the character is brilliant. Her character has insecurities about her body and her worth which is why she is in a relationship with a childish man whose love for her wavers on how he’s feeling on a particular day. Her best friend is good looking and narcissistic. Then there’s Jessa, who seems to be the quite pretentious hippie and her cousin Shoshanna who is a virgin and a hilarious addition to the group.  Girls explores the trials young women face, it also explores the complexities that make young women enter bad relationships and the intricacies of sex that it is not always beautiful and that being a virgin is hard and not always a good thing. It is basically what every real young woman should watch.  Girls is an observation of young women in their actual settings.

The list of female characters goes on and on I can’t analyse them all but you can. Choose movies or television shows that portray women in varied and wonderful ways, watch the bad shows or movies and ask yourself as a feminist why it was bad. Promote good shows to your friends and family; discuss the reality of these shows and movies and how they relate to your life. Support movies with good female leads like Brave (a feminist themed animated movie which I enjoyed). All in all don’t let your feminist thinking stop once you start watching television and movies.


1 thought on “Female roles in movies and television shows”

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (stay with me here) remains my favourite show ever. The lead is a strong (in every possible sense) woman who just so happens to be the one saving the world. I love that she isn’t written as some sexed up Charlie’s Angels type but as an actual multi-layered person. When asked once why he “still” writes strong female lead characters, the show’s creator, Joss Whedon, simply said: “Because you’re still asking me that question.”


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