7 inspiring female TV characters to celebrate International Women's Day with

Parks and Recreation - Season 7
Published: March 8, 2018 at 7:30 am

International Women's Day is the perfect excuse to celebrate the women in our lives that inspire us every single day. Associate editor for Susanna Lazarus shares her top 7 TV characters to turn to when you need to find some female feistiness. Grab a cuppa, get comfy on the sofa and enjoy...


It’s been a rough year for the entertainment industry, but Hollywood has met scandal with action and with #TimesUp and #MeToo comes a chorus of female voices demanding to be heard. For encouragement, they need look no further than their TV screens where they’ll find some seriously badass women smashing their fictional glass ceilings. Here are just a few examples…

Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation (played by Amy Poehler)

This is a woman whose office walls are adorned with powerful female politicians and who set up a group of girl warriors she calls “the goddesses”; a local government official who is never daunted by the size of her enormous dreams. Watch Parks and Recreation and you will find yourself wishing you possess just a fraction of Leslie’s determination as she topples the patriarchy and climbs the greasy pole.

Lisa Simpson in The Simpsons (played by Yeardley Smith)

If we’d known Leslie Knope as a child, we’d like to think she was something like Lisa Simpson. There are countless examples of Lisa’s inspiring sense of self-worth but the most celebrated came in 1992 episode Lisa vs Malibu Stacey where the youngster took on a toy manufacturer for selling sexist dolls. 25 years on, it’s still relevant – but 29 series in, Lisa continues to inspire girls young and old around the globe.

Claire Fraser in Outlander (played by Caitriona Balfe)

At a glance, Outlander isn’t your classic feminist TV show. Nudity and violence run through it and the marketing makes much of the rippling abs of its star Sam Heughan. But at its heart is Claire Fraser. Hurtled back in time 200 years and surrounded by centuries-old patriarchy, the WW2 nurse presses forward, bringing her 1940s medical knowledge to feudal Scotland. Fearless and feisty she takes every challenge in her stride and proves that women are more than a match for men, whatever the century.

Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones (played by Gwendoline Christie)

Rewind seven seasons and Game of Thrones was a man’s game, with various male-led factions battling for control of the Iron Throne. But as we inch towards the finale, it’s the women who are still standing. Some may use dubious methods to dominate (Cersei and Daenreys, we’re looking at you) but others remain honourable – like female warrior Brienne of Tarth. Standing at 6 foot 3 she quite literally towers over her opponents and if you ruled Westeros, you’d want her in your corner – hers is the sort of decency you rarely see in George RR Martin’s ruthless world.

Carrie Mathison in Homeland (played by Claire Danes)

Much of Homeland focuses on the maverick genius of Carrie Mathison – often America’s last and best hope of averting catastrophic terrorism. The show moves against the backdrop of her bipolar disorder and never shies away from the blurry ethical line she treads. But while Carrie’s America has a female president, the world she inhabits still belongs to the men, which makes her all the more impressive. Carrie may not have the relentless optimism of Leslie Knope or the book smarts of Lisa Simpson but she doggedly owns her beat and never fails to outstrip her male colleagues.

Jessica Jones in Marvel’s Jessica Jones (played by Kristen Ritter)

Hollywood is only just cottoning on to the marketability of a female-led superhero vehicle but before Wonder Woman, there was Jessica Jones. Yes, she’s got the trademark super-strength, but orphaned Jessica was reared in a laboratory where sick experiments left her with super abilities. Not only that but she suffered sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of David Tennant’s villainous Kilgrave. She’s a victim and hero all at once, battling her demons while beating up the bad guys and sticking up for the weak – an inner struggle that has inspired countless viewers and prompted the sort of discussions that need to be had in light of #MeToo.
Robin Ellacott in Strike (played by Holliday Grainger)


Cormoran Strike’s business was floundering before he met Robin Ellacott. But from the moment Holliday Grainger quite literally stumbled into his office, the life of JK Rowling’s titular detective was transformed. Robin knows exactly what she wants and goes after it. She’s smart and intrepid and matches the experienced Strike toe-to-toe as they hunt down some seriously sadistic killers. And – most importantly – she’s known hardship and adversity but chooses to look them straight in the eye and march onwards.


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