CRITIC'S CUT: The Most Empowering Female Characters in TV History
5) Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh)
Dr. Cristina Yang is a divisive character. She's a double-doctor, a woman who doesn't adhere to what society expects her to do; she knows what she wants, and is, yes, a little bit ruthless. Her decision to get an abortion, because she didn't want a child in season 8, divided audiences. But Shonda Rhimes wrote in one of the most honest, admirable storylines for one of television's most remarkable characters in all of the medium's history. Cristina Yang is Cristina Yang, and she won't ever apologize for it.
4)Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay)
LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIM'S UNIT
Procedurals get stale. If they have any hope of remaining somewhat fresh, they've got to have some fantastic characters driving the drama, and drawing viewers back in. SVU got it perfect with the ultra-dedicated and ultra-strong Detective Olivia Benson. She lets cases get to her, she's complex. But she's human, and, Hargitay does an exemplary job of pulling that from the script.
3) Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar)
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
The slayer did it all: saved the world, managed a dating life, died (twice.) She survived the most hellish four years of high school, and taught teens growing up in the 90s that people can literally think you're a psycho - and it doesn't matter. You do you. Even if doing you means always hanging out in cemeteries and/or the sewer.
2) Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell)
Your best friend is murdered, and your dad, the local sheriff, accuses her father, one of the towns' most wealthy and influential men, of committing the crime. What do you do? Blame the universe for taking away your first-world status on the high school social spectrum? Or do you embrace the outsiderness, become a modern day Nancy Drew (only way cooler), and find out who really murdered her? If you're Veronica Mars, you do the latter. Mars is a lesson in self-respect and self-determination, in embracing who you are - and making it work for you. Quippy writing aside, Bell really made the character the Cult icon she is today.
1) Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury)
MURDER, SHE WROTE
Without everyone's favorite substitute-teacher-turned-mystery-author/PI, there would have been no Benson. There would have been no Veronica Mars, no Buffy Summers. Angela Lansbury and her grandma-kookiness kept networks pushing for more female badassery - not only to be featured, but to lead the shows. Plus, there's something so charming about Fletcher riding her bike around Cabot Cove to the show's theme song.