Television has always played an important role in helping to move the needle on societal issues, and challenging female inequality and harmful gender stereotypes is one of them. Cable TV networks have been and continue to come out with powerful programming that spotlight women in unique ways, casting them not only in leading roles but in ones that defy the conventional norms that audiences were once used to seeing on the screen. From AMC's "Killing Eve," which featured an Asian American woman (Sandra Oh) in the leading role as an MI5 agent opposite another powerful female lead, to HBO's "Big Little Lies," in which women were portrayed as the plot-drivers while the men were cast in supporting roles, cable programmers over the years have been doubling down on their efforts to produce strong, female-centric plots that represent women in positive and multifaceted ways—a far cry from some of the earlier traditional representation, or lack thereof, of women in the past.
Here is a small sampling of shows that have been continuing this focus on women in in the past year.
AMC's "Kevin Can F***" Himself airs its final season this fall, with a plotline unlike any other ever seen before. A dark comedy that takes a snipe at the traditional sitcom motif, Annie Murphy stars as the stereotypical sitcom wife on the outside married to an insensitive husband who draws audience laughter by poking fun at her, incessantly making jokes at her expense. But the show alternates between single camera realism and multi-camera comedy scenes to reveal her character's true feelings and frustration of being trapped in an unhappy marriage to a man who constantly brings her down in order to make himself shine in front of others. The series also explores the complex relationship between two women, Murphy's character and her next-door neighbor as they seek to claim their own power in a male dominant world.
Disney's "Sneakerella" flips the script on the classic Cinderella story in this film which made its debut in late Spring on Disney+. "Cinderella," now "El," is a young man living in Queens who aspires to be a sneaker designer but is down on his luck and lives with his mean stepbrothers. The "prince" in this story is actually a princess, Kira King, the daughter of a basketball star and sneaker mogul. By reversing the gender roles in the traditional fairy tale, Disney created a unique coming-of-age story that shows the lead female in the story striving to find her voice in a business where men tend to call all the shots, and one in which the boy and girl inspire one another to do better and be better—rather than pushing forward an outdated plot of a prince rescuing a poor girl and turning her into a princess.
HBO's "Euphoria," a teen drama series that explores drug addiction, family, friendships, and relationships, features a transgender girl, Jules, who is one of the most compelling characters on the series. Her backstory is full of heartache and tragedy, but she plays an important role for the LGBTQ+ community. "Euphoria" helps to break down the walls for transgender people by telling her story of transitioning from a boy to a girl, but also by not making it the sole focus of who she is. The show treats this as just one small part of her identity, otherwise portraying her as a normal teenage girl.
Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) acquired the legal drama, "All Rise," for its third season debut, and the series holds a lot of promise at its new home on the network. While the show looks at the Los Angeles legal system, which has definitely been portrayed before, this time the lead role of judge is played by a Black woman. Simone Missick plays Lola Carmichael, and also serves as the executive producer of the third season. OWN is known for telling the stories of Black women, the challenges they face, and the obstacles they overcome. With "All Rise" now in the OWN lineup, the show is making sure that the voices of Black women are being heard loud and clear and represented in strong and powerful ways.
Showtime's "Yellowjackets" is a female-powered drama series about a high school girls soccer team that was involved in a plane crash in the '90s. The series looks at how the remaining team members survived in the wilderness in the aftermath, as well as the impact the crash had on them as adults in the present day. With a cast of all stars, including Christina Ricci, Melanie Lynskey, and Juliette Lewis, the show examines female friendships, their relationships with men and women, a hidden lesbian affair, female violence, and femininity, all at once. The women in the story are layered, steering far from the one-dimensional and "good girl" tropes that, traditionally, TV shows and movies have depicted them as.