Iconic women of television

Sisterhood, womanhood depicted on big screen

Representation as a woman is essential when living in a male-dominated world, especially in media.

Films, TV shows, music and radio push more male ideologies, leaving little room for the female perspective in how society should view and treat women. This is commonly known as the “male gaze,” where a female character’s sex appeal determines her value. Placing women in less desirable and expected cliché roles that do not speak to a woman’s true capabilities of being a powerful leading force.

The following TV shows helped showcase those capabilities:

“Living Single”

This show held the attention of audiences with the vastly different personalities of the four leading female actors who support representation from the perspective of Black women. At the same time, speaking to how society views women in leadership roles, each character is a successful leader in their careers as an owner of a magazine, lawyer, aspiring actress, and event planner.

However, the embodiment of sisterhood between the four friends stands out most in the sitcom, showing a bounded relationship between women that is not always seen when looking through a typical male-motivated TV lens of women tearing each other down.

“Xena: Warrior Princess”

The iconic war cry of a sword-wielding and chakram-throwing warrior woman in ancient Greece shaped a new way of representing women leads in fantasygenre TV. “Xena Warrior Princess” changed the characterization of women in fantasy as damsels in distress to self-supporting and equally matched warriors as their male counterparts. The show focuses less on the sex appeal of women with revealing clothing and more on
women’s strength, wit and willpower.

“Half and Half ”

This show is set in the early 2000s and follows half-sisters Monna and DD living
in the same apartment building as they try to develop their relationship as sisters while also navigating the relationship world as young Black women. At the same time, the main characters must also represent careers in music and sports fields that are mostly dominated by men.

“Laverne and Shirley”

The upbeat, funny and game-changing spin-off of the TV series “Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley” follows the daily lives of two single female roommates working at a brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, during the 1950s. The two women take control of the screen as they, too, represent women changing the traditional assumption of women being cast as homemakers to being cast as women in the workforce.

“I Love Lucy”

Besides the comedic flair of following the countless gone-wrong trials of getting into showbiz, the ‘50s American sitcom “I Love Lucy” displayed a leading female character that, in some ways, challenged the gender norms of the time. The series depicted the typical ideal life of the 1950s with a wife who stayed home and a husband who was the
family’s primary breadwinner.

However, with each episode, Lucy fought against traditional gender norms in her own “Lucille Ball” way. She proved through different comedic sketches how women could aspire to be seen as more than just homemakers. The show set the stage for other leading women in TV to change society’s expectations of a woman’s role in life.