International Women's Day is a time to honor and recognize the achievements of women as America continues to strive for gender parity and equality. Fortunately, cable TV networks continue their efforts to increase representation of women, on screen and in the writers' room, and to cast women and girls in strong, meaningful, and leading roles that send a powerful message to audiences watching. As cable programming aims to move the needle on this important issue, here are a handful of examples of how networks are shining a spotlight on women in unique ways, reversing harmful gender stereotypes and putting forth a new status quo.
AMC Networks: "Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches"
AMC Networks' adaptation of Anne Rice's trilogy of novels follows a young neurosurgeon who discovers her connection to a family line of witches, and the supernatural powers she holds. The female-centric show, which premiered in January, is rooted in feminism as it explores women, magic, witchcraft, and healing powers, drawing parallels between the lead character's role as a doctor in the present day and the midwives of ancient times—and the inner strength they all must muster during struggles and societal challenges.
Disney: "Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur"
Based on Marvel's animated comic book series, "Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" premiered on Disney last month and features an African American girl superhero as the lead. The preteen protects New York City's Lower East Side from danger with her sidekick, a 10-ton T-Rex dinosaur, but the show emphasizes that her real superpower is her brain. Behind the scenes, the writers' room for this show is mostly women.
Hallmark Media's New Programming Initiative: Mahogany
Mahogany launched last summer and has Black women at the focal point of its storytelling. "The launch of Mahogany marks a seminal moment in the evolution of Hallmark content, with authentic stories about friendship, family, community, and love through the unique lens of Black women," said Hallmark Media President & CEO Wonya Lucas. Mahogany released its first holiday movie in December, "The Holiday Stocking," and just came out with another movie, "A Nashville Legacy," last month.
HBO: "The Last of Us"
HBO's latest live-action video game adaptation is proving to be a huge hit, and in this post-apocalyptic world where fungus has taken over and humans have turned against one another, the female characters are driving the plot. Female strength is portrayed in unique ways through several women who audiences can root for, but the strongest character is proving to be one of the lead protagonists—a teenage girl who continually fights for survival using everything she's got—her body, her words, her brain, and her emotions, saving not just herself, but others in her path as well.
Lifetime: "Black Girl Missing"
Lifetime's new movie this month, which is part of the network's "Stop the Violence Against Women" campaign, highlights a serious issue with media and law enforcement—the lack of coverage and resources for the families of missing Black women and girls. The movie features the Black and Missing Foundation, and raises awareness of this racial disparity by depicting what it's like for Black families who go through this, ultimately issuing a call to action to audiences to educate themselves so that more people can be advocates for Black women and girls.
OWN: "Queen Sugar"
"Queen Sugar" may have ended its seven-season run last fall, but it continues to receive accolades from critics for its racially progressive themes and for helping women get their break in TV production, as many landed roles as showrunners and directors following their stints on the show. What really makes "Queen Sugar" stand apart is that it was an all-female directed show from the very beginning, and it was intentional. "I think this is something that is a model for what the industry can and should be," said Stacey Muhammad, one of the show's filmmakers.
"Yellowjackets" returns for season 2 later this month. The female-powered drama series revolves around a high school girls soccer team that was involved in a plane crash in the '90s. Through flashbacks and present-day scenes, the show depicts the women as incredibly layered and complex as they navigate female friendships, their relationships with men, and a lesbian love affair. The show also examines female violence and the lengths the characters go to survive, physically and emotionally—as "Yellowjackets" goes against the traditional "good girl" tropes of the past.