Three Television Portrayals of Women
I’ve been dealing with a persistent case of burnout over the past couple of months. Although it’s been frustrating from relational and productivity standpoints, staying home and hiding from the world has left me with a lot of good tv-watching time. I’ve been checking out new shows and catching up on old ones, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the portrayals of women in several of them. Here’s a snapshot.
Nadia Vulvokov from Russian Doll
Played by Natasha Lyonne, Nadia is a cynical, irreverent, caustic protagonist who finds herself caught in a time loop when she dies on her 36th birthday and wakes back up at her birthday party, only to die and wake up again and again.
Why I love her: Nadia takes up space. She demands attention. She has complex relationships with the women in her life, both friends and mentors. She also has a whole lot of trauma in her backstory that is addressed with both realism and thoughtfulness. She’s coming apart at the seams a little bit, but not in a way that presents her as a damsel in distress for the benefit of furthering a man’s story line.
Why you should watch: I should preface this by saying that Russian Doll is geared toward an adult audience and viewer discretion is advised. That said, if you like psychological thrillers, well-written female characters, and reasonably accurate portrayals of psychology appointments—including EMDR—Russian Doll is a definitely worth a watch.
Midge Masiel from The Marvelous Mrs. Masiel
Played by Rachel Brosnahan, Midge is a upper-middleclass Jewish divorcee in the 1950s who attempts to build a career as a standup comedian with the help of her manager and friend, Susie Myerson.
Why I love her: Midge is a product of her time and her upbringing—she’s naïvely optimistic, fashion-obsessed, and pretty comfortable with most aspects of her patriarchal society—and she’s also snarky, dogged, and on a journey to figure out who she is and what she wants in life. As with Nadia, Midge has complex relationships with the women in her life, and we get to watch some flourish and others strain as her journey progresses.
Why you should watch: If you’re not already watching The Marvelous Mrs. Masiel, you are missing out on some of the best writing, costuming, and cinematography currently being produced. The show is well paced and easy to binge watch. The relationship between Midge and Susie is hilarious, and the surprisingly supportive, purely platonic friendship Midge forms with a male comedian is something I don’t see often in tv shows.
Abbi Abrams from Broad City
(Okay, yes, Broad City has been running since 2014 and everyone has already seen it, but I only started watching it a couple weeks ago, so I’m going to talk about it anyway.)
Played by Abbi Jacobson, Abbi is an often-awkward twenty-something trying to figure out adulthood while surviving sitcom shenanigans in New York City.
Why I love her: Although she’s maybe not the most multifaceted of the characters on this list, Abbi is the one I relate to the most. She’s finding herself in fits and starts, trying to make a living doing what she loves, and living the stereotypical millennial life. Her relationship with her best friend, Ilana Wexler, while a bit codependent, provides an only slightly over-the-top view of close friendship between women.
Why you should watch: Like Russian Doll, Broad City has some more mature themes, so watch at your discretion. That said, the relationship Abbi and Ilana share is hilarious in the best way, and the way their experiences in love, sex, and everything else are presented through a starkly female lens is a delight to watch.
So, those are the characters I’ve been following recently. How about you? Where are you seeing interesting, well-written women in tv, film, and other media? Please share—I’m almost caught up on Broad City, and I need to know what to watch next.