8th March marks International Women's Day, a day to celebrate and empower girls and women of all backgrounds, creeds and professions.
Art, as in life, has presented us with several powerful depictions of women and the small screen is no exception. So, on this day of girl power, we take a look at some of television's most influential female characters, be they badass, smart, (superhumanly) strong or just delightfully relatable.
1. Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation
Comedy is so often saturated with male ensembles and leading men, so when a character like Leslie Knope comes along, promoting strong, dedicated, funny women, we can't help but feel a little blessed. Played by the wonderful Amy Poehler, Leslie is the ambitious protagonist of NBC's popular sitcom, Parks and Recreation.
Hard-working, optimistic and endlessly resourceful, Knope is a great role-model for women everywhere. She's a woman who knows what she wants and is willing to work for it, compromising where necessary, but not at the cost of her fundamental values and beliefs. Throughout the series, she was also a great advocate for feminism and the coming together of women, famously creating a day celebrating female friendship. "What's Galentine's Day, you ask? Only the best day of the year."
2. Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones
There are plenty of strong female characters in the fantastical realm of Westeros. As Cersei Lannister once said, "When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die," and as things currently stand, the women are winning. From Cersei to Arya, Sansa, Brienne and Asha/Yara, the women of Westeros are doing well to survive the bitter threat of Winter. And if there's one Westerosi woman that is most likely to make it to the very end, it is the Mother of Dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen.
Daenerys is inspiring for many reasons. When we first met her in Season One, she was a meek and quiet princess, sheltered and abused by her domineering brother, but then, after becoming the Khaleesi of Khal Drogo's Dothraki warriors, she gained agency and realised the power within herself. Even when the men closest to her perished, she came out of the literal flames, stronger and with three dragons in tow. She is often a site of awe for those who meet her in the series, and that's for good reason.
Dragons aside, Daenerys is a strong female character. Sure, she's really taken her time getting to the Iron Throne, but during her growing reign as Queen she has shown herself to be compassionate, yet firm in her rule - and we certainly think that will take her far.
3. Jessica Jones from Jessica Jones
It's often been lambasted that for all the superhero content that is being bombarded around us, the amount of strong, well-written female superheroes is in short supply. In 2015, Netflix balanced the books (a little) by bringing us the imperfect, brash powerhouse that is Jessica Jones. Played with acerbic wit by Krysten Ritter, Jessica Jones is a far cry from the likes of Wonder Woman, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch. This is not a female character reduced to being the token woman in the tight-fitted clothes. Jessica Jones is her own woman and in the Netflix series, she shows that and then some.
Superhumanly strong, but incredibly vulnerable, Jessica is a survivor attempting to reconcile what has happened to her and resist being taken advantage of. Her journey is an emotional one, but we found ourselves completely with her every step of the way. Another woman who knows what she wants and will do whatever it takes to get it, Jessica is strong in more ways than one.
4. Buffy Summers from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
There's a lot of talk about Buffy going around at the moment, and it's not just because the show that brought her to the mainstream is turning 20 this week. The character of Buffy Summers is a cultural icon and one of the most well-written depictions of a strong, female protagonist in all television history.
Starting off as a popular high school student at Sunnydale High, Buffy soon grows into a slayer and leader of fierce means. She's brave and resourceful and just as willing to kick ass as she is to love and forgive those close to her. She didn't want to be the chosen one, but she took to the role with a strength and vigour that was unparalleled for it's time. 20 years on, she's still legendary.
5. Donna Noble from Doctor Who
For much of Doctor Who's 50 year life-span, we have been presented with female companions that in some way become infatuated with the Doctor, running by his side unquestioningly. Catherine Tate's Donna Noble was a refreshing change.
Outspoken and confident, Donna acted as the tenth Doctor's moral compass, unafraid to question his decisions if it compromised the human morals she believed in. She wasn't afraid to smack the sense into him and she faced every new monster and trial with great humour and courage. There's a reason she's one of the nation's favourite companions - and it wasn't just because she was mouthy. She was also a great female character. In the Doctor's own words, "for one shining moment, she was the most important woman in the whole wide universe."
6. Tina Belcher from Bob's Burgers
From Lisa Simpson to Daria Morgendorffer, animated women can be influential too. Although Tina Belcher is technically voiced by a man (Dan Mintz), she is still a girl that we have taken to our hearts and funny bones. The eldest child of the Belcher family in Bob's Burgers, Tina is the embodiment of every young adolescent girl. We can relate to her quirks and that's why we love her.
Naive, yet confident in her own self-worth, Tina is a hopeless romantic who despite her fantasies (usually of the erotic, zombie butt variety) struggles in real-life social situations. She's awkward, but she owns it. By her own admission, she's no hero - she "puts her bra on one boob at a time just like everybody else" - but for girls who struggle with their own self-confidence, she is something of an icon.
7. Dana Scully from The X-Files
The 90s provided a lot in the way of groundbreaking depictions of women on television. As well as Buffy, we also got Dana Scully. One of the most successful sci-fi series ever made, The X-Files was great for a number of elements, but one of the best parts was that Mulder and Scully were equal partners throughout the whole thing - subverting gender expectations and challenging stereotypes to boot.
Scully is rational and sceptic in the face of extra-terrestrial mysteries; the complete flip-side of Mulder's emotional, gut-spoken actions. Though petite in stature, she was fearless and straight-talking. Sci-fi is yet another genre satuated by men. Gillian Anderson's portrayal of Scully was among the first to change that. She wasn't a sidekick, she was Mulder's partner in every sense of the word - and she held her own completely. The quote below is just one of the other reasons why we love her.
8. Michonne from The Walking Dead
In a series swarmed with flesh-eating zombies, it's no easy feat to be a bad-ass, but somehow Michonne manages to hold her own as one of the strongest survivors in Rick's group.
With her katana in tow (which by the way is easily the most bad-ass weapon you could wish to own in a Zombie apocalypse, bar perhaps Daryl's crossbow), Michonne is a strong warrior who has come to the defence of her fellow survivors many times. Resourceful and smart, it's no surprise that she's still alive. And for that, we commend her.