The Most Empowering Female Characters In TV History

By Rick Gonzales | Published

emilia clarke

10 Most Empowering Female Characters In TV History

Throughout the history of television, most TV shows focused on men, their toys, and their many adventures. Diversity, in all forms, took time to reach the small screen. Slowly but surely, though, change began to hit the airwaves and by the time we got to the ‘80s and ‘90s, female characters were beginning to find their voices.

Today, everywhere you look as you flip through the channels, you see plenty of examples of strong female characters. They are powerful, fearless, smart, and independent, and many of them stand toe-to-toe with their male counterparts. We have found 10 such powerful women.

10. Sydney Bristow - Alias

Alias was an action thriller TV series created by J. J. Abrams that ran for five seasons and starred Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow. The series followed Bristow as a double agent, working for the CIA while posing as an operative for the worldwide criminal organization, SD-6.

Abrams and his writing crew put together a great female character in Sydney Bristow. Confident, physically and emotionally strong, Bristow was a positive influence and Jennifer Garner handled Sydney with a firm hand. Her strength comes from how she handled the trauma in her life throughout the series – the death of her fiancé, the death of her best friend, and the death of her mother.

9. Carrie Bradshaw - Sex and the City

Although Sarah Jessica Parker played Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, the character actually was created a few years earlier by journalist Candace Bushnell, who wrote a column, Sex and the City, for The New York Observer. Bushnell based the female character of Carrie Bradshaw on herself and invented her for a good reason – she didn’t want her family to know they were reading about her sex life.

Bradshaw and the rest of her Sex and the City crew showed women how to be independent and find strength by being themselves. She used sex as a weapon but also as a way to keep connected. Writing about her active sex life, her best friends’ sex lives, and the relationships between men and women takes confidence, which Carrie had plenty of.

8. Peggy Olson - Mad Men

Elizabeth Moss played Peggy Olson for the entire seven-season run of Mad Men. As Olson, Moss was able to show the strength and growth of the female character. The series is set in the 1960s and tells the story of a prestigious New York ad agency and one of its top ad executives, Don Draper (Jon Hamm).

When we are first introduced to Peggy, she is Don’s secretary. As the show progresses, Peggy’s tenacity is rewarded with a bump to copywriter, the first one the agency since World War II. Later in the series, Peggy follows Don out the door as he starts his own business. Peggy’s hard work gets her to be second-in-command for the new business.

7. Joan Holloway - Mad Men

As another strong female character from the excellent Mad Men series, Joan Holloway is the New York ad agency’s office manager. Christina Hendricks plays Holloway with a ton of sex appeal and uses it to her advantage. The first few seasons had Holloway running the office. She then became the Director of Agency Operations, before becoming a Junior Partner in the firm.

Holloway never lacked confidence but always seemed to be at opposite ends with Peggy Olson (see above). Peggy was always intimidated by Holloway’s beauty and confidence while Holloway didn’t care much for Peggy’s conservative clothing and reserved attitude.

6. Maggie Greene-Rhee - The Walking Dead

The beauty of being part of a long-running series such as The Walking Dead is that if you can avoid the gruesome kill-off, your character will be able to grow in ways never expected. This was true with Maggie Greene-Rhee, played by Lauren Cohan.

When we first meet Maggie, she is young and independent, though living a sheltered life, mainly because of the zombie apocalypse, on her family’s farm. Soon after Rick Grimes’ group arrives, Maggie begins to demonstrate the toughness that she will mold throughout the rest of the series. Fierce with a take-charge attitude, Maggie Greene-Rhee is the epitome of a tough female character.

Krysten Ritter

5. Jessica Jones - Jessica Jones

Sometimes you’ve got to hit rock bottom to see just how strong you truly are. Krysten Ritter portrays Jessica Jones, a former superhero who did hit her low point after she accidentally killed someone during a battle with the villainous Kilgrave. No longer able to fight, Jones instead decides to become a private investigator and opens up her own detective agency, Alias Investigations.

Jones is forced to get back up on the horse when Kilgrave makes his return known by being back to his naughty ways. Jones now must find the strength to overcome her crippling history and finally put an end to Kilgrave once and for all.

4. Annalise Keating - How to Get Away with Murder

How to Get Away with Murder is a legal thriller that has one of the best female characters on television, Annalise Keating. Played by Viola Davis, Keating is a high-profile defense attorney and law professor at Middleton University. That right there should tell you what type of powerful character Davis is playing.

The first season of the series has Davis choosing five of her students to work with her and they all immediately get involved with a murder case. Annalise is shown to be confident and self-sufficient. She has people who admire her as much as they fear her.

Emilia Clarke secret invasion

3. Daenerys Targaryen - Game of Thrones

Emilia Clarke portrays Daenerys Targaryen and when we first see this female character in the highly rated, highly controversial hit series, Games of Thrones, she is an exiled princess from the Targaryen dynasty. Her transformation from mild and meek, someone who barely spoke and would listen and do everything her brother would tell her to the mother of dragons, the leader of armies, and the killer of slave masters was a transformation to behold.

Her character was such a well-written one and one that made Clarke a household name. Although her character suffered much abuse early on, it was her strength and determination that put her in a position of power.

2. Leslie Knope - Parks and Recreation

Not every strong female character is written as a physically fit wonder woman. Strength can come from many different sources. Take Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope. In Parks and Recreation, her strength comes from her unwavering ability to believe in herself and whatever project she undertakes. She is funny (the series is a sitcom), she is bright, and as the series moves forward, Leslie Knope gains more and more confidence in who she is.

On top of Poehler, the series boasts a very underrated, yet hilarious, cast. It also stars Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Paul Schneider, Adam Scott, and Rob Lowe, and introduced the world to Chris Pratt. Although Offerman’s Ron Swanson was the director, it was Leslie Knope who pretty much took the helm.

1. Olivia Pope - Scandal

When Olivia Pope first hit the small screen in the 2012 Shonda Rhimes series, Scandal, she was immediately hailed as a groundbreaker. Played with passion and strength by Kerry Washington, the Pope character, according to The New York Times’ Felicia Lee, was the only black female dramatic protagonist on television since 1974. As drawn up by Rhimes, Pope became one of the most complex black female leads in TV history.

Olivia Pope showed her strength from early on. She is well-known as a “fixer” in Washington, D.C., who helped Fitzgerald Grant become the President of the United States. She does have one massive secret she shares with the President, and that is the affair she had with him.

Her character has been described as “emotionally strong, professionally powerful, and personally complicated” all equaling to one of the most empowering female characters in television history.