By Alyssa Avina
In the current era of television we are lucky enough to be living in right now, more and more shows are coming out that showcase a great female lead. There are certainly still strides to be made for female empowerment on television, but we are finally seeing progress after all this time.
Netflix is a great pioneer for having original programming that features a strong heroine as the lead of their shows. They are shown as realistic, flawed, vulnerable women who have their own unique personalities rather than just being there as a pretty face. It’s important that we celebrate these shows that have been a long time coming.
With so many shows capturing our attention that have female leads, it may seem impossible to pick the very best shows that perfectly emulate female empowerment. But we have done just that by picking out the next shows you need to binge-watch on Netflix right now. They will make you laugh, cry, and feel like girls most definitely run the world.
1. Grace And Frankie
A show about two divorcées in their 70’s forming an unlikely friendship is intriguing enough, but with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda at the helm, it made for an instant hit for Netflix.
Tomlin plays Frankie, a free spirit whose wackiness gets her in sticky situations constantly. While Fonda plays Grace, a classically beautiful woman who is more often than not a little uptight. Their husbands have been carrying on an affair for decades and are now leaving their respective wives for each other.
Their story of friendship is the perfect backdrop for not only finding love again – with each other and with new men – but for them finding who they really are outside of their failed marriages.
2. Jessica Jones
When a series comes out that features a fierce and inhumanly strong woman kicking butt and taking names, it’s bound to resonate with female audiences. That’s exactly what happened when Jessica Jones first came out in 2015.
Jessica is a flawed private eye who has a traumatic past that she struggles to cope with. She also is completely comfortable in her own skin and with her sexuality, which is not shown nearly enough on-screen. Krysten Ritter made Jessica Jones into one of the best female superheroes we have seen adapted for television yet.
Though Netflix has canceled Jessica Jones, as well as their other Marvel projects, season 3 will still be released sometime this year.
3. Chewing Gum
Chewing Gum is a show that is long overdue. The British series originally premiered in the U.K. and was later added to Netflix’s streaming platform. It features Tracy, played by creator Michaela Coel, as a 24-year old woman who grew up very religious and is just now exploring her sexuality.
A lot of hilarious moments occur on the show because of this, but it is done so in a blissfully unapologetic, awkward, yet nonjudgmental way. It is very refreshing to see a female POC starring in and writing a show that empowers its protagonist’s journey in a uniquely wonderful way.
Glow features the fictionalized world of a real-life program from the 1980s, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, founded by David McLane. It was a syndicated women’s professional wrestling circuit.
This is the setting of Glow, where Los Angeles actress, Ruth Wilder, auditions with other women to be featured on the show. When her former friend, retired soap actress Debbie Eagan, joins GLOW, a rivalry is born.
The women deal with sexism, trying to retain their dignity while in the ring, and forming friendships with each other once they put their differences aside. It’s the female-centric wrestling show we never knew we needed, until now.
5. Russian Doll
Natasha Lyonne stars as Nadia, a video game designer in New York, who inexplicably keeps living her 36th birthday over and over again. Yes, it sounds a whole lot like Groundhog Day, but with a new twist – Nadia dies every time, only to be regenerated to some time earlier in the night.
Each time she dies, it’s in a new way, but during this, she gets to reexamine her life and the choices she’s making, which gives the show depth and shows Nadia’s vulnerability perfectly. Not only does Lyonne star in the series, but she co-created it with Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland.
While the show itself is empowering all on its own for women, the fact it’s comprised of women creators is just as amazing.
6. One Day At A Time
One Day At A Time is a reimagining of the sitcom by the same name that aired from 1975-1984. They wanted it to feature a Hispanic family and it became one of the most endearing shows on Netflix.
It revolves around a Cuban-American family living in Echo Park in Los Angeles, with single mom Penelope Alvarez as a United States Army Nurse Corps veteran who suffers from PTSD, while raising her kids and living with her Cuban mother.
The show tackles many important topics including sexism, immigration, homophobia, and mental illness. This show was so important before it was unfortunately canceled entirely too soon.
7. The Crown
Netflix decided to take on royalty with their ambitious depiction of Queen Elizabeth II and the early years of her reign. While The Crown may not have the most obvious feminist moments of all the shows on this list, it shines with its subtlety of empowering moments for their female characters.
Like when Elizabeth, at times, succeeds in making her own choices as a mid-century female monarch, it is enough for a show mostly surrounding her duties she cannot abandon.
She may not be able to break through in all ways when it comes to the monarchy, but when her individuality does have a moment in the spotlight, it’s a beautiful thing.
8. Stranger Things
A sci-fi horror series with monsters, mayhem, and teenagers may not immediately spell out female empowerment, but that description doesn’t even scratch the surface of what this show entails.
With Millie Bobby Brown at the forefront as Eleven – a young girl who escaped the lab where she was experimented on – she represents everything you wished you were at her age. A strong, vulnerable, accepting, and powerful young woman.
Sure, we may not have been able to move things with our minds growing up, but it would have been nice to be even half as cool as Eleven is on Stranger Things. She’s the hero we needed back then and still need now.
9. The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina
A show about a teenage witch may conjure up memories of cheesy sitcom fun, but not in Netflix’s iteration of Sabrina’s tale. Kiernan Shipka stars as Sabrina in their dark reimagining of the 90s sitcom. It is a far cry from what we saw when Melissa Joan Hart played the teenage witch. Here, Sabrina is a fierce young half-witch who is going up against the patriarchy.
She is a loyal and heroic young woman who still has her own vulnerabilities. The way she makes sure the girls at her school have a safe space, or how she fights corrupt men, shows all the ways Sabrina is empowering for young women everywhere.
10. Santa Clarita Diet
Okay, so this is not the most obvious show on Netflix that is great for female viewers. It is a zombie comedy, after all. But for anyone who has watched, you have likely noticed the visible transformation of Drew Barrymore’s character, Sheila Hammond. She goes from being a bit of a pushover to taking what she wants when she wants it and standing up for herself whenever necessary.
It also completely breaks gender norms with her and her husband, Joel, played by Timothy Olyphant. It features a strong female lead with her emotionally supportive counterpart, and even better is the fact that her husband plays the sidekick in Sheila’s narrative. It’s a must-watch.