Pop Culture

Badass Ladies on the TV

What follows is a highly subjective, woefully incomplete list of some of the coolest ladies on TV in 2011. Despite my best efforts, I can’t watch everything, and so I’m 100% positive I’m overlooking an unfortunately high number of badasses. Don’t view this as an authoritative list (what constitutes boob tube authority anyway?), but rather as a start to a list that can only get longer, better, and more diverse.

This is a collection of characters that are eminently watchable (and not in the Jersey Shore train-wrecktastic kind of way). They are independent, outspoken, and complex. They are flawed and hesitant and uncertain, but simultaneously bold, ambitious, and brash. They are the characters I identify with if only for that delicate and truly human combination.

Diane Lockhart (The Good Wife) – On a show full of ball-busting ladies with killer wardrobes, Christine Baranski is the ball-busting and sartorial stand-out as a partner in a Chicago law firm triumphantly perched atop a shattered glass ceiling. She speaks in clipped four word sentences, but damn do those four words speak volumes.

Debra Morgan (Dexter) – Miami Metro’s newest sergeant is foul-mouthed, narrow-hipped, and woefully insecure. The six seconds it takes to fall  apart and then pull oneself back together is Jennifer Carpenter’s six seconds of brilliance. Just watch her face, it wavers, crumples, and recomposes before you can say “fuckballs.” Between tracking murderous Floridians, wrangling her staff of misfits, and pointedly not knowing her brother is a serial killer, Deb’s got her hands full.

Robin Scherbatsky (How I Met Your Mother) – Everyone’s favorite 4 am news anchor has had a lot of meaty stuff to work with this season on HIMYM (blame the writers for any shark-jumping, it’s not Robin’s fault!) Cobie Smulders’ comedic timing is impeccable, and her Canada-defending never ends, but her plaintive portrayal of a modern career women’s misgivings about motherhood and marriage is spot-on.

Penny Hearts (Happy Endings) – ’90s Long Island Bat Mitzvah, anyone? Happy Endings is all about the dynamics within the gang, but Casey Wilson is the lady standout as the resident spaz who only speaks Italian when she’s wasted. I love her because she dreams for Prince Charming, but buys herself a condo while she waits.

LaDonna Batiste-Williams (Treme) – In a cast full of knock-outs, Khandi Alexander’s raised eyebrow should get it’s very own credit line, and probably an Emmy. LaDonna embodies all of the dashed hopes and chronic disappointments of post-Katrina New Orleans. And Season 2’s personal tragedy (no spoiler!) is quite possibly the most emotionally agonizing television hours I’ve ever not cried through. If I had cried, I might have missed a split second of Alexander’s incredible performance.

Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones) – She’s a huge bitch, but she couldn’t be more fun to watch. Lena Headey’s portrayal of the icy Queen is full of snide commentary, single-minded (often murderous) ambition, crazy jacked-up hair-dos. And if you’ve read ahead, you know that she only gets more fascinating!
Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show) – She’s not a character, per se, but Kristen Schaal’s reports on lady business for The Daily Show have been a 2011 satirical highlight. Did you catch that segment about cuts to organizations that might fund abortions?
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So who am I missing? I don’t watch Justified, The Walking Dead, The Killing, or Sons of Anarchy. Any quality lady-roles to be had on those shows? Who would you nominate?

By Emily Heist Moss

Emily Heist Moss is New Englander in love with Chicago, where she works at a tech start-up. She blogs every day at Rosie Says, and writes regular features for The Good Men Project about dating, relationships, sex and gender. She has also been featured on Jezebel and The Frisky. You can reach her at Find her on Twitter @rosiesaysblog.

11 replies on “Badass Ladies on the TV”

I’m partial to the ladies of The Vampire Diaries: Caroline especially. Blonde bubbly cheerleader with a twist…

I also have a soft spot for the Dowager Countess, Anna, and Mary on Downton Abbey but whether they’re really fully-realised characters is something that’s up for debate, perhaps.

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