TV & Movies

20 Feminist TV Series That Put Women To The Front

By Morgan Reardon
8th Apr 2021

We’re all about celebrating and amplifying women’s voices here at Urban List—and that’s certainly the case when it comes to entertainment. Fortunately, there is a slew of incredible, female-led shows that hero women in all aspects of life—from bossing it in the boardroom and the powerful tales of friendship to crime-fighting queens. 

Need a boost of empowerment in your life? Here’s our edit of the very best feminist TV shows that you can stream in New Zealand today. 

The Bold Type

Netflix

For those who haven’t had the joy of watching this great show yet, it’s basically a sassy mashup of The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and The City. In it you’ll delve deep into the lives of three best friends (Jane, Kat and Sutton) who work for fictitious women’s magazine Scarlet. The trio navigate through the struggles and successes of living in Manhattan, tackling relationship breakdowns, women’s rights and family drama—all side by side. This show is proof that women supporting women is a freaking amazing thing. 

GLOW

Netflix

If you’re after bad ass girl power in shedloads then you’ll want to plug into GLOW. The series tells the fictional story of Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), an out-of-work, struggling actress in 1980s Los Angeles who finds one last chance for stardom when she’s thrust into the glitter and spandex world of women's wrestling. In addition to working with 12 Hollywood misfits, Ruth also has to compete with Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin ) a former soap actress who left the business to have a baby, only to be sucked back into work when her picture perfect life is not what it seems. Together these women fight to be recognised in a male-dominated industry. 

Claws

tvnz On Demand

Set in central Florida at a nail salon, Claws follows five hardworking manicurists—from various walks of life—who are all trying to make ends meet. There’s salon owner Desna (Niecy Nash), who cares for her mentally ill brother; BFF Jennifer, a single mum who just got sober; salon security guard Ann; former prisoner Polly; and Virginia (Karrueche Tran), the newbie in the group who flips the table on all of their lives when she draws them into the criminal underworld. Together this group of extraordinary women take on the “tough guys” and show them who really runs Florida. 

Jessica Jones

Netflix

If you prefer your feminist TV shows to be lead by a kick ass female superhero, then you’ll want to line up an evening of Jessica Jones viewing ASAP. It follows Jones (Krysten Ritter) , an anti-superhero who gained superhuman strength during a freak accident when she was a kid. Fast forward to today and she’s running her own detective agency, Alias Investigations, from her run-down apartment in New York. While she spends most of her time catching cheaters and low-level crims, things take a turn when a mind-bending villain turns up in town, forcing Jones to embrace her inner bad-ass and take him down. 

I May Destroy You

Neon

Feminist TV shows come in all forms and this limited series from the supremely talented Michaela Coel will rip your heart out. It follows Arabella (Coel), a successful writer whose life is forever changed when she’s sexually assaulted on a night out with friends in London. As she struggles to remember exactly what happened, while trying to keep her career alive, she’s forced to question everything in her life, from her job to her family and friends. 

The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina

Netflix

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina re-imagines the origin and adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror, the occult and, of course, witchcraft—so basically forget everything you remember about Melissa Joan Hart’s version. Set in the fictional town of Greendale, the series follows Sabrina Spellman, (Kiernan Shipka) as she navigates becoming a witch and her regular human, highschool life, all the while saving the world from Satan—literally. She’s a feminist icon at just 16 years old and we dig that! 

Broad City

Neon

We can’t lie, we shed a tear when this hilarious, female-led dramedy finished up in 2019. Broad City follows Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, two wise-cracking, weed-smoking besties who are trying to live their best damn lives in New York City. Produced by another queen we adore, Amy Poehlar, this series captures the complexity of female friendship and what it’s like to be a female in modern society. Honestly, just go binge it now. 

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker

Netflix

Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer stars as Madam C.J. Walker, the trailblazing African American hair care entrepreneur who was America’s first female self-made millionaire. Inspired by the book, On Her Own Ground written by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, the series shows how, against all odds, Walker overcame post-slavery racial and gender biases, personal betrayals, and business rivalries to build a ground-breaking brand that revolutionized black hair care, as she simultaneously fought for social change. 

Big Little Lies

Neon

If we’re talking girl power, it doesn’t get much more fierce than the leading ladies of Big Little Lies, based on the book by Aussie Liane Moriarty. Staring Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Kravitz, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley, the actors play a group of mothers, initially brought together by their children who attend the same primary school—the series takes a dark turn when they work together to cover up a murder.

Killing Eve

Tvnz on demand

The epic spy thriller follows steely MI5 agent Eve (Sandra Oh) who, bored with her current job, becomes obsessed with capturing brutal—yet incredibly chic—assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). While Eve embarks on an international hunt to stop Villanelle’s murderous ways, the serial killer takes no prisoners, brutally taking out anyone that gets in her way…everyone except for Eve that is. Catch all three seasons on TVNZ On Demand. 

The Handmaid’s Tale

NEON

The women of The Handmaid’s Tale might start out oppressed but it’s not long until they start rebelling against their captors. Led by June (Elizabeth Moss) this dystopian thriller takes place in Gilead, a new world where women can be used as handmaids to produce children for the men that own them. Beaten and mentally tortured, the handmaids, led by June, decide to turn the tables on their “leaders” by hatching a deadly and daring escape. 

Fleabag

Amazon Prime

If you loved Killing Eve, then you’ll love the whip smart comedy of Fleabag, which stars and is written by the incredible genius, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who also penned the first season of Killing Eve). A real, raw portrayal of a young woman living in London, Fleabag is all about celebrating, rather than hiding her “fuck ups”. There’s cursing, cringe moment, loads of sex and tons of LOLs. We could go on about it but seriously, just go and watch it. 

The Mindy Project

Amazon Prime

If you’re after some light-hearted LOLs from one of the funniest women going around, then look no further than The Mindy Project. The show follows Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kahling), an obstetrician and gyno living in New York who has just about everything figured out… except her love life. Following her disastrous dating escapes is just half the fun, the best bit (in our opinion) is watching Lahiri constantly outwit her male colleagues. 

Grace & Frankie

Netflix

You’ll laugh and you’ll cry during this incredible series that puts women to the front. In Grace and Frankie, Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie) star as two women whose lives are suddenly turned upside down when their husbands reveal they are gay and leave them for each other. Both sparring partners and partners-in-crime, they form an unlikely bond to face an uncertain future together and discover a new definition of “family,” with laughter, tears and plenty of mood enhancers along the way.

The L Word: Generation Q

neon

This show made serious waves when it debuted over a decade ago, showcasing the lives of a group of lesbians and bixsexuals in LA. After a 10 year hiatus, the ladies of the L Word are back. The L Word: Generation Q pick ups where it left off, following our faves Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals), Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey) and Shane McCutcheon (Katherine Moennig), along with newbies Micha Lee (Leo Sheng) and Gigi (Sepideh Moafi) as they experience love, heartbreak, setbacks and success in LA. 

Good Girls

Netflix

This crime dramedy centres around three mums: Beth, who’s used-car-dealing cheating husband has sent her to financial ruin; Annie, a single mum caught in a nasty custody battle and Ruby, happily married but in desperate need of cash to help cover her daughter’s medical bills. Fed up with being mistreated by society, the trio hatch a plan to rob a local grocery store (which Annie works at). Being total novices, the heist doesn’t exactly go to plan and the trio fall into a world of crime they never would have expected.

Good Trouble

Apple TV+

This spinoff from the hugely popular drama The Fosters, is a must watch. In Good Trouble, we follow foster sisters Callie (Australia’s own Maia Mitchell) and Mariana as they embark on the next phase of their adult life in LA where Callie has scored a job as a clerk to a big-time judge while Mariana is an engineer at a cool tech start up. The sisters are faced with a myriad of challenges in the big city, like sexism in male-dominated industries, racism and a whole lot of relationship drama. 

The Morning Show

Apple TV+

This snappy new series stars Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy, everyone’s favourite news presenter on The Morning Show. Known for changing the face of television the show takes a dive when Levy’s co-host Mitch Kessler (Steve Carrell) is fired amidst a sexual misconduct scandal. Levy must fight to keep her place, while up and coming field reporter turned new TMS co-host Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) threatens to take her place.  

Harlots

Neon

The year is 1763, London is the most vibing city in the world where one in five women make their living selling sex and competition is err, stiff. Determined to make her way to the top, Margaret Wells will do just about anything to ensure her brothel is number one. Written by a female team of scriptwriters, the comedy is dark, and the costumes are outrageous, but it’s the power of women in this series that makes Harlots a must see. 

Younger

neon

Liza is a newly single mum in her early 40s who gave up her career to raise her daughter—sound familiar? Now solo with her daughter off at college, Liza decides to head back into the world of publishing and finally live her dreams. But with limited experience, to nab the role she pretends to be the ripe young age of 26. As expected, chaos ensues. Filled with the ups and downs of typical twenty-somethings and extremely-close calls, you’ll devour this comedy that celebrates a cast of strong women. 

 

Want more binge-worthy goodness? Find out everything you should be binging on Netflix NZ.

Image credit: Netflix

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