6 Bad-Ass TV Women
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4. Leslie Knope, proud city councilwoman in “Parks and Recreation.” If Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon is the feminist that many of us too often are--craven, selfish, spouting our ideology for our own good, suspicious of other women’s motives-- Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope is the feminist that many of us aspire to be--unflaggingly idealistic, unwilling to accept to defeat, energetic, inspirational, and kind and loyal to boot. Knope’s feminism can be very congused--she admires powerful women regardless of their ideology (the season premiere paired Olympia Snowe and Barbara Boxer as Leslie’s heroine, for instance). But her practical feminism lives up to ideals--kindness to her friends, absolute tenaciousness that gets rewarded, not shot down. She faces mild relationship drama because her dreams of public service are as important to her as being domestically settled, but again, the audience is made to care about Leslie’s dreams as much as she does.
After some early jokes about how bad she was with guys, we’ve seen Knope date (for the most part) handsome, intelligent, noncrazy men; her two sustained relationships have been mature and realistic. They ended not because of her horrible man-keeping skills, or because she’s such a workaholic, but because for various believable reasons, they weren’t working out.
Leslie’s relationship with her former boss Ben is sweet and nerdy, but (and I know I'm sounding like a broken record) during its final season, the beloved show needs to focus on the characters’ foibles at work and not let the romantic back and forth water its humor down.
5. Carrie Mathison, the troubled CIA agent in “Homeland.” Playing Mathison just netted Claire Danes an Emmy. Her portrayal is a more ambiguous “gritty” character than some of the others on this list--watching in her in action is bound to be less pure pleasure than watching Alicia Florrick, for instance. But she’s on the list because her show is buzzy and dark, and because her character, a secretly troubled detective who is constantly going rogue is a traditional male archetype (see: Holmes, Sherlock) that she has won serious plaudits for making her own. One devoted fan, “Ms. Mary McGill” blogged:
Not only is Carrie a workaholic, she is battling with mental health issues she refuses to address properly, insisting on self-medicating. She is racked with guilt over 9/11 and determined not to let anything of that magnitude ever happen again... unlike typical female characters who exist solely to react to the needs of the male characters, Carrie follows her own gut in ways that are no doubt reckless but also brave. She doesn’t think twice about getting angry or defending her point of view against her male counterparts and superiors. By and large, she doesn’t care about pissing her co-workers off ...