Girl Power! Meet TV’s Strongest Female Characters

TV shows at their best when characters are captivating and relatable. Over the years, audiences have been gifted with some of the best female actors in TV show history. From Lucy Ricardo to Ruth Langmore, writers have done an excellent job creating characters that capture everyone’s heart.

Emilia Clarke, Edie Falco, Elisabeth Moss
Emilia Clarke, Edie Falco, Elisabeth Moss. Source:

While some are fearless comic book stars that emulate feminist ideals, others are just your everyday woman. Regardless of their situation, all of these women have one thing in common: they speak to their audiences in their own unique way. These women prove time and time again the importance of having strong women on the screen.

Let’s take a look at some of the greatest female characters in TV history!

Olivia Benson, Law & Order: SVU

Olivia Benson is, hands-down, my favorite character on television. She’s strong, in charge, and not afraid of putting herself in danger to save others. Olivia is the captain of the Special Victims Unit in Law & Order: SVU, making her someone most people are scared to mess with.

Law And Order Special Victims Unit' On-Set Filming
Law And Order Special Victims Unit’ On-Set Filming, Photo By Greg Allen/Shutterstock

Olivia is played by actress Mariska Hargitay, who has starred in the popular drama series since 1999. While countless characters have come and gone (we’re looking at you, Stabler!), Olivia has remained at the NYPD’s 16th precinct for the show’s entire run. Although Olivia has a tough exterior, she isn’t afraid to let her guard down. She frequently becomes emotionally involved in her cases, making her a special detective and fan favorite.

Rebecca Pearson, This is Us

Mandy Moore is a Hollywood triple threat. Not only can she sing, but Mandy can also dance and act with some of the best actors in the business. After taking a small hiatus from acting, Mandy finally rose to the top when she was cast as family matriarch Rebecca Pearson in the hit TV series This Is Us.

'This is Us' FYC Event, Los Angeles
‘This is Us’ FYC Event, Los Angeles, USA – 06 Jun 2019, Mandy Moore. Photo By Frank Micelotta/Twentieth Century Fox Television/PictureGroup/Shutterstock

The emotional show is a tear-jerker. It tells the story of an unconventional family coping with the death of Rebecca’s husband, Jack. Throughout the series, viewers get a glimpse of Rebecca’s life, from when she first fell in love with her husband, to how she’s dealt without him by her side. Each episode proves time and time again that Rebecca is the epitome of a strong woman.

Jennifer “JJ” Jareau, Criminal Minds

There seems to be a new crime drama every time I turn the TV on, which sometimes makes it hard to keep the characters’ names straight. However, Jennifer “JJ” Jareau is one name that I never have a hard time remembering. She commanded attention throughout the 15-year run of the hit CBS show, Criminal Minds.

Jennifer “JJ” Jareau
A.J. Cook as Jennifer “JJ” Jareau. Source:

Played by actress A.J. Cook, JJ struggles with her painful past while juggling motherhood and a career as a behavior analyst for the FBI. Throughout the series, fans always had JJ’s back as her storyline developed, and she moved through the ranks within the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU). JJ’s most admirable aspects come through when she interacts with her husband Will. When it comes to protecting those whom she loves, JJ isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

Lucy Ricardo, I Love Lucy

Ask any comedian in Hollywood whom she looks to for inspiration, and I bet that you’ll hear the name “Lucille Ball” more often than not. Lucille rose to fame as one of the most popular actresses of the 1950s, thanks to her hit show I Love Lucy. Lucille starred in the show alongside her husband, actor Desi Arnaz.

I Love Lucy Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz
I Love Lucy Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz. Photo By Smpglobe Photos / Mediapunch/Shutterstock

Her character was hilarious, relatable, and always getting into trouble. Over the course of 181 episodes, fans tuned in every week to see what kind of mess Lucy would get into next. However, it wasn’t just Lucille’s acting that made her a standout star. Her willingness to break taboos and her business mindset make her one of the most important women in TV history.

Rachel Green, Friends

Everyone remembers the first episode of Friends when Rachel Green bursts into Central Perk wearing a gaudy ‘90s wedding dress. Jennifer Aniston’s character not only nestled her way into Monica Geller’s friend group, but she captured fans’ hearts forever. While all of the sitcom’s characters have their own quirks and storylines, Rachel’s character arc has a lot of substance.

Jennifer Aniston’s character - Rachel Green, Friends

She started out as an overdependent daddy’s girl, with no money. With the help of the Friends gang, she found her footing and turned her life around. Fans all around the world enjoyed watching Rachel excel in her career and as a single mom to Emma. She proved to everyone that anything can be achieved as long as you have the right mindset.

Erin Reagan, Blue Bloods

It isn’t always easy for Blue Bloods’ Erin Reagan. As the second of four children, Erin is often the one who keeps the peace between her three brothers. This wasn’t an easy task, especially in a family as complicated the Reagans. Putting her family dramas aside, Erin has had her fair share of problems.

Bridget Moynahan, Donnie Wahlberg and Tom Selleck
Bridget Moynahan, Donnie Wahlberg, and Tom Selleck, Photo By Kristina Bumphrey/Starpix/Shutterstock

From her divorce from Jack to tackling her law cases, Erin sure hasn’t had it easy. Erin, who is played by actress Kathryn Bridget Moynahan, puts her heart and soul into everything she does. That’s why she takes losing in the courtroom to heart and never takes no for an answer. This spark, however, is why we love her so much. Her passion for law and protecting her family is remarkable.

Claire Underwood, House of Cards

The world of political dramas was often considered a man’s world until House of Cards made its debut in 2013. While Claire Underwood didn’t start the series with a political career, she made it very clear that both she and her husband Frank were behind everything that happened in Washington, D.C.

House Of Cards – 2013, Robin Wright
House Of Cards – 2013, Robin Wright, Photo By Netflix/Kobal/Shutterstock

The Dallas-born, Harvard Law graduate, may have had some questionable morals, but her determination to accomplish anything she sets her mind to is admirable. Claire is played by actress Robin Wright, who has starred in the series from the first episode until its cancellation in 2018. The Underwoods are often hailed as one of the most powerful couples on TV.

Abby Sciuto, NCIS

The quirky forensic scientist became almost synonymous with the show NCIS. With her chunky bangs and gothic style, Abby Sciuto is instantly recognizable, even to those who never watched the hit CBS show. Played by Pauley Perrette, Abby is intelligent, positive, and energetic.

Abby Sciuto, NCIS

Instead of making her a stereotypically Goth character, the show’s writers decided to have her break the mold, making her much more lovable. She often hugs everyone on screen and talks really fast, much to Agent Gibb’s annoyance. While her quirks are often used for comic relief, Abby is intelligent and a perfectionist. This combination made her a fan favorite for 15 seasons. However, in 2018, Pauley decided her time on the show had run its course, and she was written off the show.

Ruth Langmore, Ozark

Netflix crime drama Ozark has officially taken the world by storm. The series follows a married couple who moves their family to the Ozarks after their involvement in a money-laundering ring spirals out of control. As the Byrde family is left fighting for their lives, they employ the help of a local teen, Ruth Langmore.

Julia Garner and Jason Bateman
Julia Garner – Supporting Actress In A Drama Series – ‘Ozark’ and Jason Bateman – Lead Actor In A Drama Series – ‘Ozark.’ Photo By Matt Baron/Shutterstock

While Ruth is a tough and impulsive career criminal on the outside, audiences can’t help but root for her to succeed. Ruth Langmore is played by the talented Julia Garner, who continuously proves to be one of the show’s most talented actors. Ruth’s family issues run deep, but her no-nonsense attitude and potential make her a fan favorite. Ozark definitely wouldn’t be the same without Ruth.

Mary Richards, The Mary Tyler Moore Show

It may seem strange to think about it in today’s day and age, but there was a time when single women were not featured on television shows. Then the Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered in 1970, starring Mary Richards, an independent woman who is more focused on her career as an associate producer than finding a husband.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show publicity still
Mary Richards as Mary Tyler Moore. Source:

The show is also known for its complex storylines and character development, providing a stark contrast to other sitcoms at the time. As a part of the second wave of Feminism, Mary was and still is, seen as a groundbreaking character. Women all over the world could finally relate to a woman on the small screen.

Peggy Olson, Mad Men

Oh, the iconic Peggy Olsen. The copywriter turned Copy Chief was masterfully played by actress Elizabeth Moss. She started at Sterling Cooper as the secretary to the agency’s creative director Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm. After no time at all, it became evident that Peggy had a talent for advertising.

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson. Source:

She becomes the first female writer at the firm since World War II. While Mad Men did a great job developing their characters, Peggy’s character arc is definitely a fan favorite. By the end of the show, Peggy has proven to everyone around her that she is one of the best in the business. She will no longer be silenced by her male co-workers who tried so hard to keep her down the entire series.

Pam Beesly, The Office

The acting style of The Office brings out the best in its characters, and Pam Beesley is no different. Played by Jenna Fischer, Pam is understated and poised, making her a fan favorite. At the beginning of the series, she’s a secretary at Dunder Mifflin, but she slowly makes her way to become the office administrator.

Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly
Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly. Source:

Her slow-burn relationship with Jim, played by John Krasinski, is also a joy to watch. The pair begin dating in season four and end up getting married in season six. Pam might be a shy character at the beginning of the show, she becomes a more assertive character as the series progresses, especially when dealing with Michael Scott’s awkward humor. Pam is definitely well-liked by her co-workers and by fans alike.

Elaine Benes, Seinfeld

Seinfeld is filled with iconic characters, and Elaine Benes is probably the best one. Played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Elaine was one of television’s first multidimensional female characters. Yes, she was smart and beautiful, but she was also imperfect and outspoken, characteristics that weren’t usually seen in female characters at the time.

Seinfeld publicity still
Jerry Seinfeld as Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes. Source:

Originally, Elaine wasn’t supposed to be on the show, but producers felt that Seinfeld was too “male-centric.” Elaine proved time and time again that she was one of the guys, but also hilariously high-strung and very entertaining. She is usually seen arguing with her friends, especially about her dating life. Like her friends Jerry and George, Elaine is a serial dater, who usually finds some way to ruin the potential for an actual relationship.

Daenerys Targaryen, Game of Thrones

Throughout the series, the Mother of Dragons was the single most continuously loved character. This mainly stems from her poise, confidence, and power. While many characters (and fans) mention her beauty, Daenerys Targaryen is much more than her looks.

Game of Thrones, Episode 8x6 publicity still
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. Source:

Played by the amazing Emilia Clarke, Daenerys is the mother of three dragons and the commander of the ruthless Dothraki and the Unsullied. While many fans were disappointed in how she was depicted during the last season, her no-nonsense attitude and the urge to always do the right thing are inspiring, even if it leads to a murderous decision. But as time went on, her love for power became apparent and ended up causing her downfall in the end.

Audrey Horne, Twin Peaks

The American mystery drama, Twin Peaks, was the brainchild of David Lynch and Mark Frost. It premiered in 1990 and, although it was canceled after one season, it gained quite the cult following. Played by actress Sherilynn Fenn, Audrey Horne is the girl who is in love with the lead character Dale Cooper.

Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks
Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks. Source:

The 18-year-old is labeled a trouble maker. She often fights with her parents while trying to solve the mystery surrounding Laura’s murder. Although the two girls weren’t friends, Audrey says that she “kind of loved” Laura because she was her handicapped brother’s tutor before she was killed. Audrey was brought back during the 2017 Twin Peaks revival, but many fans were unhappy with her character’s end.

Roseanne Conner, Roseanne

Many of Roseanne Conner’s character traits are based on the actress who portrays her, Roseanne Barr. Both Roseannes are bossy, loud, and aren’t scared to speak what’s on their minds. Despite these personality traits and dominating nature, Roseanne is a great mother and wife. She always has time to take care of her family.

Roseanne Barr as Roseanne Conner, John Goodman as Dan Conner
Roseanne Barr as Roseanne Conner, John Goodman as Dan Conner. Source:

No matter what challenges the Conner family faces, they always seem to overcome them and come out stronger in the process. The series was revived in 2018 but, sadly, was cut short because of a tweet that Roseanne wrote. It caused so much controversy that the show was pulled. The remaining castmates created a new show, called The Conners. Writers explained Roseanne’s absence by telling audiences that she passed away from an overdose.

Carmela Soprano, The Sopranos

While the Sopranos were a crime family, the show depicted a softer side to the brutal mob life, usually shown in other shows and movies. While there were still some gruesome scenes in the show, writers did a great job of adding some much-needed family life scenes. Carmela Soprano, played by actress Edie Falco is the wife of Mafia Boss, Tony Soprano.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano. Source:

Carmela needs to give the impression of regular family life, even though the Sopranos are far from a normal family. Although Carmela often feels guilty for betraying her religion, she isn’t scared of letting people know who her husband is. Without Carmela’s support, Tony would fall apart.

Dana Scully, The X-Files

Actress Gillian Anderson spent most of her twenties playing FBI agent Dana Scully on the show The X-Files. The hit TV series ran for 11 seasons, and Dana Scully made an appearance in all but five episodes. The hit TV series made Gillian a star, but many fans claim the show wouldn’t be the same without her iconic partnership with Fox Mulder.

Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, David Duchovny as Fox Mulder. Source:

Mulder was the ying to Scully’s yang. He was impulsive and hot-headed, while Scully was more relaxed and level-headed. While Mulder was always a believer, Scully always needed proof. It wasn’t until Mulder’s abduction in season seven that she finally believed in the supernatural. In addition to abductions and problems in her personal life, Scully also overcame cancer and tried to come to terms with her religion.

Xena, Xena: Warrior Princess

Xena: Warrior Princess was one of the most famous shows of the 1990s, mainly due to actress Lucy Lawless. While the character of Xena is intense, mysterious, and dark, she has many great qualities. She empowers people by teaching them about mortality and how to be self-sufficient. She can lead troops, build defenses, and effortlessly take down powerful enemies with her acrobatic moves.

Xena: Warrior Princess Publicity still
Lucy Lawless as Xena. Source:

Ultimately, Xena’s story is about redemption and how to come to terms with a terrible past. She may have been a bad person in the past, but she becomes a beacon of hope as the show rolls on. Although the series started off with great ratings, fewer and fewer viewers tuned in every week. The show was eventually canceled in 2000.

Sydney Bristow, Alias

Long before actress Jennifer Garner was considered a Hollywood powerhouse, she played CIA spy Sydney Bristow in Alias. With a Canadian-Russian background, Sydney is an intelligent, well-established agent. After learning that the organization that she worked for almost seven years was a terrorist organization, she agreed to join the CIA to help bring them down.

Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, Rachel Nichols as Rachel Gibson
Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, Rachel Nichols as Rachel Gibson. Source:

One of Sydney’s most memorable qualities was her ability to pull herself together after experiencing serious tragedies. Despite her fiancé and best friend’s death, and the discovery that her mother was a former KBG spy, Sydney can stand on her own two feet and carry on. Jennifer received critical acclaim for her performance, winning two Golden Globes for Best Actress in a Television Series Drama.

Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Upbeat and stubborn, Buffy Summers is an average American teenager in many ways. Played by actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy is 16 years old and struggling to balance her life, killing vampires with studying for the SATs. Buffy has a strong moral compass and is determined.

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers. Source:

When creating the show, Joss Whedon didn’t want a typical, naïve female character. It was important to Joss that Buffy be a strong, female cultural icon. Buffy is often seen on lists for the greatest TV characters of all time. Buffy’s most impressive ranking was in 2010 when Entertainment Weekly ranked her third on its list of the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 years.

Fiona Gallagher, Shameless

While actress Emmy Rossum may have the face of an angel, she had to get down and dirty to play Fiona Gallagher. As the oldest in the Gallagher family, Fiona is in charge of taking care of her younger siblings while keeping track of their dysfunctional dad, Frank. While everything seems to fall apart, Fiona is often the only guiding light for her siblings.

Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher
Emmy Rossum. Source:

Fiona is determined and level-headed and often has to take on some bad jobs to take care of her family. As the series progresses, Fiona struggles with balancing taking care of her family and dealing with her wild streak. She turns to drinking and makes bad decision after bad decision until she leaves the series in season nine.

Deputy Chief Madeline Wuntch, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

While Deputy Chief Madeline Wuntch isn’t a regular on the series, she makes an impact with every appearance. Played by actress Kyra Sedgwick, Wuntch just wants to get ahead and doesn’t care who she has to destroy in the process. If she can destroy Raymond Holt, even better. She has a long-standing feud with Holt, which began from their early days of working together.

Deputy Chief Madeline Wuntch, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Deputy Chief Madeline Wuntch, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Source: YouTube

Wuntch mistakenly believed that Holt was romantically interested in her, and has harbored hatred toward him ever since. While Wuntch is disliked by most fans, Kyra’s performance is flawless. She can pull off the Deputy Chief’s vengeful personality despite being well-liked for her role in The Closer. The two roles couldn’t be more different.

Eleven, Stranger Things

When Stranger Things premiered on Netflix in the summer of 2016, no one could have predicted just how huge the series would become. While all of the actors are phenomenal, Millie Bobby Brown definitely takes the cake. The actress stars as Eleven, a young girl who was kidnapped and experimented on at the Hawkins National Laboratory. Eleven has psychokinetic powers, making her the ultimate target of the government as well as monsters from the “Upside Down.”

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven
Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven. Source:

Eleven starts off very timid but comes into her own after meeting Mike and his friends. Her relationship with Hopper starts off slow, but blossoms into a full-blown father-daughter relationship. Audiences love watching Eleven find her sense of self and can’t wait to see what the future holds for her in the next season.

While these women are busy kicking butt on the small screen, there are plenty of real-life women who are busy overcoming stereotypes. There’s an outdated stereotype of female athletes being less feminine than other women. When these female athletes aren’t playing ball, snowboarding, or wresting, they appear on the red carpet in full glam.

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