With our Teen special just a week away, we’re talking about the girls.
Some of the best things about teen TV in the 90s were the super positive female role models that were popping up all over the place.
Suddenly girls on TV weren’t just the love interest (or making all their decisions based on their love interest) they were independent women who made hard choices and weren’t letting people take advantage of them.
Of course at the time, it didn’t feel like this at all, but in hindsight, being surrounded by positive female role models pop culturally is probably a big part of the reason that our generation are way less likely to take shit from anyone now.
So, in our third Teen TV post we’re talking about Strong Female Protagonists of Teen TV. (sounds like a Netflix category, no?)
Some think it all started with Buffy, and it sort of did. Because Joss took the idea of the first girl to get killed in a horror movie (Before she moves to Sunnydale she’s ACTUALLY a cheerleader, remember?) and turned her into a Superhero who saves the world, like, every weekend.
Buffy’s sassy one liners became the blueprint for every smart talkin’ female protagonist on TV, but few pulled it off so well as SMG.
The journey from Buffy as a bratty teen, through embracing her adult life, having to become a parent for Dawn, making the ultimate sacrifice time and time again and finally being able to choose her own destiny is a glorious one.
Apart from season 4 Buffy. There is no way a self respecting slayer like Ms Summers would get it on with Riley Finn, no matter how badly she was feeling the loss of Angel.
Buffy handles everything life throws at her, still manages to get her hair done and pick an outfit and saves everyone. All of the time.
Buffy Summers will teach you everything you need to know about being a strong, independent woman (who also has friends, and fashion sense – come on! It was the nineties)
Daria & Jane
You don’t automatically think about Daira in terms of feminist role model, because she hated everyone equally. But if Quinn was your sibling, you would probably have some issues with vacuous girls too.
We can’t forget Jane in this scenario. Daria’s trusty sidekick. In fact, Jane may be more of a feminist than Daria (remember when Daria (sort of) stole Tom from Jane.
These two were everything that we wanted to be in the nineties. Smart, sarcastic (Darias deadpan was as far removed from Buffy’s sass as could be) boot wearing, trash TV watching heroes.
Daria, to this day, remains a less dick-ish version of Enid Coleslaw in my mind.
To MTV’s credit they didn’t turn Daria and Jane into lesbians to explain away their anger at the patriachy.I longed for a best friend JUST LIKE THIS.
Rob Thomas is about the only other writer who has ever pulled of smart talkin’ female sass as well as Whedon did with Buffy.
She’s a marshmallow.
Clearly, Veronica has reason to distrust everyone and be especially suspicious of men. She was raped, and then her future boyfriends father tried to kill her by locking her in a freezer and setting it on fire. And that was just season one.
Veronica was lacking a strong female role model, or indeed any kind of female relationship – until she befriends Mac (there’s so much slash fic about Veronica and Mac in college- and most of it written by women)
But surrounded (mostly) by men, she became the feminist-to-look-up-to in the not-particularly-feminist-at-all 00s.
Veronica isn’t bothered about what you think of her, she’s driven (these are traits rarely seen in a female protagonist, let alone one so young) and she’s definitely not waiting for a man to solve her case.
Veronica Mars is funny and cool, and complex and smart and occasionally makes terrible choices and is often thought of as ‘too much’ and that is why we love her.
Out of the three generations of Gilmore Girls, one reigns supreme in feminism.
Lorelai raises Rory on her own terms, without her family money as a working single mother, but she’s never earnest about it.
She juggles her own life, relationships, education and ultimately business, all the while equipping Rory with everything she needs to live her life.
We should never underestimate how important these fictional characters are to a particular kind of teenage girl. These people that we fall in love with in books and movies guide us to wards the people we will ultimately end up becoming far more than many of their real live counterparts. And you won’t get a better ballbusting, funny, smart, loveable TV mum than Lorelai Gilmore.
(Also worth noting, this is the only show on this list created by a woman)
Lindsey Weir was me and many of the friends I now know, in high school. Starting out as an overachiever, she realises there might be a bit more to life, dons an army jacket, falls in with a ‘bad crowd’ and the rest is history.
Lindsay is a strong minded feminist right from the get go (before even the jacket comes along) She learns over the course of the show to care less what people think (with the help of Kim) but to keep to her own moral compass. She breaks up with Nick because she likes him less, she feels terrible for ditching her mother on Halloween to go hang out with her cool friends. She does however manage to stay friends with Millie throughout the show, despite her math club ways.
Lindsay also (after a brief and rocky beginning) is proud to be smart, and offers to tutor her crush, instead of pretending to be dumber than him.
I know a lot of people will think Lindsay doesn’t belong on this list at all, because Appatow isn’t known for his ability to write believable female characters. Lindsay is the closest he has ever come.
Did we miss your favourite? Are we wrong in our selection? Let us know! Either in the comments, or come along to TV club next Thursday evening.