Hey y’all — we now live in the year 2020! You’d think that, at this point, our TV screens would be filled with diverse and well-represented female characters. But the sad truth is, most female protagonists are white, thin, and conventionally attractive. Rarely do we ever get to see the average-looking, career-driven woman who isn’t pining after a gorgeous man to make her happy. Rarely do we ever see a body-positive character who’s not defined by her size. And sadly, we barely (if ever) get to see female heroes who identify as queer.
Of course, there are rare occasions where we get to see glimpses of these attributes in major characters, and that’s great. Protagonists like Issa from Insecure and Hannah from Girls are proof that we’re making some progress. But what’s frustrating is the fact that we’re moving at a snail’s pace when it comes to women’s representation and we still have a very long way to go. I mean, wouldn’t you love to see more fictional ladies who are actually happy to be single? Or women who aren’t “beautiful” according to society’s standards? I sure would!
Click through the gallery to see which kinds of female protagonists we need to see more of in our media.
1. Ones of all different shapes and sizes.
Well, newsflash, not all women are tall, lean, and perfectly toned. Some of us are short, some of us have wide hips, and some of us have small boobs. There are so many different types of body shapes and they can all be beautiful, but Hollywood doesn’t seem to communicate that very often. Thankfully, we’ve got characters like Becky from Empire. Because while she’s not a size two, she still comes off as confident and sexy.
2. And if they’re not thin, it’s not just because they fit the “funny” stereotype.
Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect? Rasputia from Norbit? Howard’s late mother from The Big Bang Theory? Every Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer character? It’s almost as if Hollywood desperately wants us to buy into the idea that people are automatically funny because of their size, which is just (obvs) ridiculous.
3. Ones who don’t conform to the standard ideals of beauty.
Almost all female protagonists look attractive enough to be supermodels, and what’s even more annoying is that directors will often cast the most attractive women to play roles that were meant to be portraying someone “unattractive” (think pre-makeover Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries). Like, how are we supposed to relate to women who can easily charm people with their stellar smiles and high cheekbones?
4. Ones who have serious goals and ambitions – that aren’t romantically-related.
It’s actually insanely hard to think of many examples of female protagonists whose life doesn’t somehow revolve around love. This is beyond frustrating because it suggests that romance is always required for a successful and happy life. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as there are tons of real-life women who can prove that it’s totally normal to be career-driven and happy while staying single.
5. Ones who don’t feel the need to choose between romance and their career.
This is one of the few that annoys me the most, because it just reinforces the ridiculous idea that it’s impossible for women to have it all. Does Hollywood not know that women can handle being in a relationship and working just fine? Yes, it’s often tough, but it’s not impossible.
6. Ones who don’t necessarily fill either the “good girl” OR “femme fatale” trope.
What I love so much about Insecure is that we get to know an intelligent black woman who neither comes off as the “bad bitch” or the typical “goody-two-shoes.” Issa is just awkward AF, and she’s learning to come to terms with her fears/insecurities while she deals with everyday issues at work and at home, just like the rest of us. We need to see more complex characters like this, because not all of us can be categorized as inherently good or bad. People are way more complicated than that.
7. Ones who don’t identify as straight (and when they hook up with the same-sex, it’s not just to turn on the male audiences).
I honestly can’t think of that many Hollywood films with a main female protagonist who identifies as queer, bisexual, pansexual, or lesbian, and that’s kind of a huge deal. Even if more female characters chose not to label their sexuality, that in itself would be a big step forward. But we’re making some progress, because we’ve got Clarke from The 100 (who had a boyfriend and also hooked up with Commander Lexa).
8. Ones who are transgender or genderqueer.
It’s no secret that LGBT representation in movies and films are severely lacking (and no, token gay characters and roles that sensationalize LGBT issues do not count). It’s getting slightly better, but even now on the rare occasion where there is a trans character, they’re usually played by a cisgender actor, thus taking away an opportunity from a trans actor and subliminally reinforcing the idea that trans people are just “dressing” like the opposite gender. Which, like, nah.
9. Ones who embrace their sexuality.
Or in other words, females who love sex and never apologize for it. I mean, why is it okay for men to feel this way, but not women? The double standard is beyond unacceptable and more people need to accept the fact that yes, there are women who love sex too. One of my all time favorite characters is Blanche from The Golden Girls. She thought constantly about sleeping with other men and proudly owned up to the fact that she enjoyed sex, despite what her roommates thought. Talk about a trailblazer.
10. Ones who are racially diverse.
We’ve seen so many white female protagonists that it’s just tiring at this point. Like, we don’t live in a world where 99 percent of the people are white and one percent are the token people of color. That’s just not how the world works, Hollywood.
11. …and open to dating outside of their race, too.
This is 2020… We’re no longer living in an era where interracial dating is a social taboo. We need more female protagonists who are open to dating people who don’t look the same as them.
12. Ones who are differently-abled but don’t let that define them.
Whenever a character has a disability or disorder, it’s either blatantly obvious or the writers call attention to it in some dramatic way, making it difficult to not see that person through their condition. But a person’s condition does not define them, so it should never be the case for people we see on TV. Like Carrie from Homeland (a CIA officer who’s bipolar), people with disabilities have active, fulfilling lives too, and we need to see more of that.
13. Ones who get along with other women.
Yes, it is possible for groups of women to get along without getting jealous, forming some kind of bitter rivalry or getting into a ridiculous catfight. Can someone please give Hollywood the memo?
14. Ones who are intersectional feminists.
We’ve seen our fair share of feminists grace our screens, which is great. But there’s just one problem: what we’re seeing is mainstream feminism. We almost never see minority groups being represented, which is ridiculous because factors like race, class, and gender all play a role in how women experience gender inequality.
15. Ones who are well-rounded, three-dimensional characters.
It seriously irks me when I see a shallow female lead (ahem, Bella in Twilight) who has very little talent, ambition, or interests beyond their romances. They come off as so dull, and that couldn’t be a more inaccurate description of women in real life. We need to see more females whose characters actually have depth, like the women in Big Little Lies.