4 Fictional Ladies No One is Watching That Everyone Should Be

16 May 2016 by 6 Comments
girls girls girls graphic

Want to know how many garbage female characters we’ve been given over the years? Ask yourself if you’ve ever heard someone celebrate a character for being a great male character?




I got nothing.

Cookie Lyon Jane the Virgin Annalise Keating

So yeah, even with the as-of-late awesome female characters we’ve been getting on TV (Cookie Lyons, Villanueva women, Annalise Keating…) we still get set-it-on-fire garbage (*coughWICKEDCITYcough*) mixed in with the decent characters, which let’s be honest are just the wife/the mother/the daughter/the female character who is mostly there to move along the male character’s plot. Or there to be the “ideal woman.” Or there to be murdered/raped/abused.

The lack of meaty female roles in film actually drove Reese Witherspoon to start her own production company: “It was 2011, and the screenplays coming across her desk had one bland female character after another. Defined as wives or girlfriends, they were nice, respectable and, for an actor interested in character work, boring. She was drawn much more to the protagonists of the novels and memoirs she curled up with at night.”

There’s even the brilliant and utterly depressing Twitter account @femscriptintros where Ross Putman tweets the worst female description/introductions he sees while reading scripts.

And shocking to no woman his idea has already been done for years by ladies but they didn’t get the attention he did.

It’s no wonder we celebrate anytime we’re given great female characters that have depth, are difficult, complicated– you know, like real fucking women. (Some of them have filthy sailor mouths, too.)

Which brings me to four female characters I utterly love, enjoy the shit out of watching, and am sad to report more people are watching an exploding watermelon than them. As for the reason no one is watching Togetherness and Halt and Catch Fire I’m going to assume it’s because no one has heard of the shows being that anytime I mention either show the response I get is always a version of I’ve never heard of it, what’s it about?

The leading ladies on Halt and Catch Fire (AMC / s1&2 streaming on Netflix):

I’ll be honest this is one of those shows that if someone had described it to me as “it’s set in the ’80s and it’s about computers” I probably would have skipped it. I watched it knowing nothing about it because of Ned the pie man–I mean Lee Pace. To my surprise Pace plays Joe MacMillan, a character that is as far from Ned as you can get which was a real treat–I may have said asshole a few times with a smile on my face (don’t judge me).

But as much as I love his character, and the great tension created throughout the show as it’s a do-or-die work environment, it was the ladies that quickly snuck-up on me and had me tuning in binge watching. First we have Cameron Howe who is difficult, a prodigy computer coder, not great on social interacting, volatile, and determined AF. Next we have Donna Clark who is driven, resourceful, and pragmatic. Even though Donna starts off as Gordon’s wife she is as brilliant as the men–not only does she work her full time job but also saves their asses by working on their projects.

Cameron and Donna Halt and Catch Fire

The fantastic writing of this show not only introduces us to these two wonderfully written women but we have two seasons where they’ve each evolved tremendously: while they were big roles in the first season the second season flipped everything and placed the ladies front and center, and in charge. If you miss watching fabulous ladies like Mad Men‘s Joan and Peggy paving their own way in a male dominated business I can not recommend Halt and Catch Fire enough. And it’s been renewed for season 3 so now’s a perfect time to catch up so you can obsessively wait with me for it to come back.


The leading ladies on Togetherness (HBO original/s1&2 streaming on HBO GO):

This understated, family dramedy, filled with quirk and heart drops you into the middle of a marriage that while filled with love is suffering: Brett, the husband, can’t understand why he’s unfulfilled in life and Michelle, his wife, is trying to understand/help him while caring for two children and trying to create a charter school for her district. They’re really a foursome though as Brett regularly seeks out his best friend’s insight (Alex who is struggling to finally make it as an actor) and Michelle’s sister Tina (the single, flailing in the wind, “disaster”) has shown up (because of a guy) in need of a life restart.

Togetherness season 2 Michelle and Tina

Up until Togetherness Melanie Lynskey, who plays Michelle, had always been (to me) Charlie Sheen’s stalker/quirky/crazy-ish nextdoor neighbor on Two and a Half Men. Seeing her get to take on a real woman fighting for her family but also herself has been a delight. And while I have always loved Amanda Peet, who plays Tina, this is the first time I’ve felt like she’s gotten to actually show what an incredible actress she is. Part writing, part casting the perfect actress Tina is a complex character who doesn’t always make things easy on herself as she struggles to find a place in life, and I love her for it and always find myself rooting for her.

Michelle and Tina are the opposite-type of sisters who manage to still support each other even when fighting. They’re each smart, complicated, funny, and loving characters in their own way and watching their relationship is always a pleasure. For as wonderful as Brett and Alex’s friendship–Dune obsession/bonding–is the ladies hands down steal this show.

I interrupt the writing of this article to remind you how more people were watching a watermelon because as I write this it has been announced that Togetherness will not be returning for a third season. That sound you hear is a crack in my already dead heart because this is one of my favorite shows and I will very much miss Tina and Michelle–I look forward to seeing Lynskey and Peet hopefully continue to get roles of this quality. With that said the first two seasons are available on HBO GO and I can not recommend them enough. You are left with a satisfying series finale.

And a fitting end to this article. I mean no one likes to have a show they love canceled. It’s simply being forced to say goodbye before you’re ready. But when it’s a show you love that has the added element of containing something that contributes to filling a giant void it feels worse. Heavier. I need more female characters that are complex, complicated, and varied. I want marginalized voices and women from all walks of life. I want more than one Shonda Rhimes creating/producing shows. I want so many well written female characters that we no longer point out the ones that are well written females. I want so many well written different female characters that people stop thinking there is a type of woman or that women are a monolith…


Feel free to shout out your favorites in the comments and/or tell me the type of characters you wish were on your TV or that there aren’t enough of.


Jamie Canaves

Creator of Dinky Cow, contributor at Book Riot and Quirk Books, and lover of everything '80s--except Freddy Krueger. Her happily-ever-after is living inside a seaside bookstore equally stocked with chocolate—please slide pizza under door. Follow her on Twitter and Tumblr --if you so fancy.

6 thoughts on “4 Fictional Ladies No One is Watching That Everyone Should Be

  1. Thanks for the recommendation! I just watched the first episode of Halt and Catch Fire, and it is fantastic. You said computers, strong female charachters, I said “Gotta watch it!”

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