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CRITIC'S CUT: The Most Empowering Female Characters in TV History

BWW TV World is thrilled to present our weekly Critic's Cut: slicing the best (and the worst) moments of pop culture into ten little digestible pieces.

Critic's Cut runs every Friday, presenting television's 'Best Of' moments, characters, shows, and more!

This week's edition presents the women that moved televised feminism forward. These ladies (and those that played them) aren't just admired for their acting prowess. Those featured had a stake in making TV no longer a man's world - they were embodiments of the best that humanity had to offer, genderized roles be damned.

10) Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker)
The Manhattanite at the center of THE SEX AND THE CITY, Ms. Bradshaw, will never win a Nobel Peace Prize for her fornication-focused column. But the fact that she questioned everything - literally everything - and found a way to live with the answers, even when she didn't like them, was a lesson many learned right alongside her. She's no activist, but it would be absolutely ridiculous to claim that Bradshaw wasn't a source of empowerment for women (and a lot of men) in the late 90s with a premium cable package.

9) Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore)
THE Mary Tyler Moore SHOW
Anyone can make it! Equal pay, discrimination in the work place, Mary Richards rose above it all. She was a proud, intelligent single woman, one of the first on TV, and proved that the whole 'man's world' business is just a load hock.

8) Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner)

Sydney Bristow may have saved the world a lot, but my god, Sydney Bristow was lame. Like, potentially the most BORING super secret agent ever. Did ANYONE actually find her interesting? Whatever. She was like 007 as a female librarian. And that's exactly why she's a legend. She was wickedly intelligent, the source of a centuries old prophecy, but didn't rely on her sexuality to forward her sleuth. Bristow may have looked like a Bond girl on the outside, but she was a total nerd on the inside. And that's way more admirable that being able to hide a knife in a tube-top. Though she could totally do that, too.

7) Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen)
Brown proved that anyone - women or men - can do it all. Brown became a single mother, was the anchor for the fictional morning show FYI, and for your information, she was about as ambitious and scrappy as journalists come. To Brown, controversy meant nothing - except that you were doing your job right.

6) Liz Lemon (Tina Fey)
Listen up, everyone! Liz Lemon does it right. There aint' nothin' wrong with climbing into bed with a Cheesy Blaster or two. That ain't no dealbreaker. Lemon, and Fey herself, proves there's nothing pathetic about being who you are - and what you're not. Just remember: "You're a star, you're on top, somebody bring you some haaaam!"
Sidenote: don't ever try to make Cheesy Blasters. There's a reason why those things don't actually exist.

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)
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)
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)
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.

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From This Author Tyler Peterson

Tyler is one of BroadwayWorld's lead News Desk Editors, covering breaking Broadway and theatre news daily. He studied Public Relations and Creative Writing at Loyola (read more...)

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