The world of content streaming is consistently evolving. This new era of television saw some ground-breaking content, especially shedding light on issues of global concern, such as racism, feminism, Islamophobia, among others. There are some popular shows with feminist perspectives, each focusing on different aspects of women’s lives. Needless to say, while some of these shows do not claim to be feminist at all, the ones that do, do not have foolproof feminist politics either. Yet, there are definitely progressive takeaways from these shows and while at it some good entertainment to help with the mid-week blues.
1. The Bold Type
The Bold Type is one of the most popular, path-breaking yet controversial feminist shows in recent times. It revolves around the lives of three young women who work for a women’s magazine Scarlet. The show sheds light on various challenges millennial women face in their personal and professional lives and how they choose to address them. This show gained wide popularity among women, especially for the female friendships, dazzling outfits, picturesque landscape of New York City, and its whole The Devil Wears Prada vibe.
The show addresses issues such as Islamophobia, harassment, body-shaming, racism, unrealistic beauty standards, and society’s judgments. Additionally, it creates awareness to overcome stigma on topics like breast cancer and menstrual hygiene. There are some points that you connect with and make you feel heard. For instance, Sutton Brady‘s career journey from an assistant to a fashion stylist is a great arc to watch. Jane‘s breakthroughs and her conversations with Jacqueline are delightful. Jacqueline truly is a dream boss. She is extremely wise, understanding, and supportive, completely different from how bosses are usually portrayed on screen. Through the character of Adena El-Amin, a successful Muslim lesbian photographer and Kat’s on again-off again partner, the series attempt to also address the Islamophobia prevalent in America, even today.
However, the show comes with its flaws. Sometimes, the feminist view overshadows practicality, often making the judgment one-sided. For example, the protagonist breaks her incredibly supportive boss’s trust to land a job at another publication, which goes against the women-supporting-women agenda the whole show goes for. Moreover, a young assistant’s relationship with a board member is justified, though flawed. Instead of depicting reality, the resolutions to the problems these women face are way too ideal and often, shallow. However, The Bold Type does make an effort and is an engaging watch.
2. Good Girls
Good Girls is another show that is catered to the concerns of middle-aged and middle-class women. The show doesn’t promote itself to be feminist but does quite a decent job in being one. The show focuses on three moms, who, to provide for their families, engage in robbery and money laundering. This show is funny yet thought-provoking, on how society views a housewife as someone only suited to bake cakes and feed kids, and nothing more than that. Beth, the protagonist, starts robbing supermarkets along with her two friends when her family goes broke. This path brings situations that she has never imagined, and chaos with it. The character transformation of Beth from a stay-at-home mom to a fearless gangster is the highlight of the series. There is a scene where a gunman asks her why she is doing this, and she replies, “I am just bored!” The irony in the plot is that the gangsters believe in these women more than their husbands!
This feminist version of Breaking Bad does have imperfections. For starters, the feminist aspiration here is masculinist in how empowerment is only seen from the perspective of doing what is probably normal for a man to do. There is so much cheating and lying, to a point where nobody is ethical anymore. The fact that the family goes haywire if women start being fearless and independent should not be the key takeaway, yet it is in Good Girls.
The ladies’ thirst for money gets more and more awry, leading to the loss of an innocent woman’s life. Moreover, the women take advantage of the dead woman’s husband’s rage for their gain, which is all the more wrong. One of the leading lady’s husband, a sincere police officer, helplessly becomes a criminal just to protect his wife, shattering the entire family, which is annoying. Nevertheless, Good Girls manages to show how intelligent mothers are and what all they are capable of, outside the norms of motherhood they are mostly tied down to.
3. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is another modern feminist show catered towards teen audiences. The show beautifully promotes sisterhood and cleverly integrates fantasy with reality. Additionally, it deals with issues such as patriarchy, bullying, racism, and sexism. The show revolves around Sabrina Spellman, a teen who is given a choice between freedom and power, and how she manages to choose both. Watching a powerful young female standing up against evil monsters is exciting to watch.
However, the lack of diversity in representation is one of the key drawbacks of the show. The tragic ending is disappointing. The fact that the protagonist sacrifices herself for the greater good contradicts the feminist tone of the show. On the whole, Sabrina is an exciting watch that redefines the fantasy genre.
4. Why Are You Like This
This Australian series is for the extremely online generation. It is raw, unfiltered, and addresses the uncertainty that this generation faces. The plot revolves around three “woke” best friends Penny, Mia, and Austin. Penny is an advocate for intersectionality, diversity, and inclusion, and works in a male-dominated workplace. Her attempt to make people around her aware always backfires, because real life is not as easy as typing hashtags on Twitter. Mia is a young queer woman of South-Asian descent, who uses the race card to get out of situations. Austin is a wannabe drag queen, who is stuck in a social media blackhole which makes him unable to do anything in life. This combination of a proactivist and two procrastinators is fascinating to watch.
The show addresses diversity, inclusion, gender appropriation, intersectionality, and cultural appropriation, all through a Gen-Z perspective. The best and the worst part of this show is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The show reflects the flaws in feminism and misogyny, resulting in a roller-coaster ride.
The show starts great but behind all the glitz, one might think there is no plot. The premise could have be utilised in a much more effective way. The overt wokeness does make one think the same question as to the title, “Why are they like this?”
Though fictional, the Marvel series WandaVision redefined the superhero genre in many ways, and most importantly, its portrayal of powerful women. Wandavision follows the life of Wanda after Avengers: Endgame, and how she copes up with her pain by creating a fantasy world of her own. The majority of the lead cast is all women. Wanda and Agatha carry the show on their shoulders, and the climax fight between these two women is a visual treat. Wanda is shown struggling with pain, suffering, flaws, and vulnerabilities, unlike how an all-powerful superhero is generally portrayed as. Marvel made it all the better by removing the cameo of Doctor Strange, and when asked why, Producer Kevin Feige responded that they didn’t want a white guy to come and save the day!
Also read: WandaVision: The Power Of Grief And Love
Nonetheless, one of the drawbacks is that the show justifies Wanda’s actions. Trapping hundreds of people in a fake reality, just so that she could live with her husband and children is not only cruel, it’s abuse!
6. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
The opening credits for this Netflix series start with the song “Females are strong as hell!”, accurately describing the tone of the series. The show is about a female cult survivor, Kimmy Schmidt, who was abducted and forced to join the cult of a white male for fifteen years. Kimmy is now 30 years old and gets back to society with great positivity, only to realise that the real world is far worse than the patriarchal cult she lived in. Kimmy, a woman who believes in unicorns and rainbows, now must get through NYC as an adult. The show serves as a great example of female and queer representation, and connects to all the women who strive in a metro city trying to achieve their career goals.
Kimmy strives to understand what feminism is and what it means to her during the course of the show. How Kimmy confronts the evil reverend, how she and Jacqueline find their purpose, and how her optimism rescues her from situations is a treat to watch.
The show tends to portray men as either evil or mere puppets. Furthermore, many female characters are shown marrying men for just their money. Kimmy’s entire stereotypical college journey is derogatory towards college-going girls, and racial humour often crosses the line. Imperfections aside, the show’s notion of “females are strong as hell” is appealing, and its light-hearted humor makes it a lovely watch.
Needless to say, these are not the only feminist content available for watching. It is, however, refreshing to see more and more women-centric roles in the world of entertainment. The best part of almost all these shows is that they all follow the “women supporting women” agenda. Let us hope that we get to watch more shows that are headed in the direction of progressive politics and content in mainstream entertainment.
Amulya Sai Inturi is a software engineer by profession and a writer by passion. A feminist at heart, she loves to write about diversity and representation in visual media. She is also an artist, movie buff, and a pop-culture geek. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.
This list is not exhaustive and suggestions are welcome in the comments box below.