I love romance as much as the next girl.
On occasion, I’m a sap for a good rom-com, an epic romance, or a sexy love story. But sometimes romance permeates film and television to the point where TV shows that star female leads only have plots that revolve around relationships. This isn’t always a bad thing (unless you’re True Blood), but watching a show where the focus is on the other aspects of the woman’s life can be refreshing. Female characters don’t need to be overshadowed by attachments to significant others in order to be compelling.
If you want to watch some TV shows in which the women are self sufficient, strong, and don’t constantly think about when they’re gonna meet their significant others, here’s a list of shows predating 1990.
That Girl (1966 to 1971)
Although That Girl‘s Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) had a boyfriend and was later engaged, the show changed the way women were portrayed on the small screen. The premise was Ann’s fledgling career as an actress, and how she strove to balance work with family and friends. In fact, Thomas insisted that the show not end with a wedding, as it might send the message to young female viewers that marriage was the end-goal for women. While it may not seem very feminist nowadays, That Girl paved the way for other shows featuring single, independent-of-their-parents female characters (most notably The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Ally McBeal).
The Carol Burnett Show (1967 to 1978)
Carol Burnett turned variety (a “man’s genre“) on its ear when she created her own TV show. Featuring sketches and song-and-dance routines, The Carol Burnett Show helped bridge the gap between the traditional variety shows of the day (like The Ed Sullivan Show or The Lawrence Welk Show) and the shows we still watch now (Saturday Night Live, for example). The strong feminist undertones are often overlooked, however. Much like Stephen Colbert’s satire is mistaken as affirmation by those who don’t understand sarcasm, many viewers misinterpret Burnett’s idiotic female characters. (If you need a good laugh, look up some of her videos—“Went with the Wind” is my personal favourite.)
Charlie’s Angels (1976 to 1981)
Although this example speaks for itself, I love this show so much that I still want to gush about it. Despite the fact that most people from my generation associate the words “Charlie’s Angels” with the 2000 film, I grew up on the 1970s original. Sabrina Duncan, Jill Munroe, and Kelly Garrett were three fully capable women who kicked ass and took names. Sure, they used their sex appeal while undercover, and they took their orders from men; but the fact remains that I never saw a woman shoot a gun until I watched the opening credits of this show. Although their love lives cropped up occasionally, the majority of the plot lines focused on their covert missions for Charlie, and how freaking good they were at their jobs.
Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983 to 1987)
Starring Kate Jackson of Charlie’s Angels fame (she was the brainy Sabrina Duncan), Scarecrow and Mrs. King was a spy thriller with a twist: the main character was a divorced housewife with two children. Amanda King (Jackson) fell in with spy Lee Stetson on accident (Bruce Boxleitner) and started working for his agency. Once trained, Amanda became Lee’s parter. The two developed a romantic relationship toward the end of the series, but love was never the focus. Amanda and Lee were partners first, a statement similar to that of Remington Steele—that men and women can have legitimate workplace alliances on equal ground.
Murphy Brown (1988 to 1998)
If you were alive in the 90s, you likely remember (or at the very least heard your parents talk about) the 1992 national scandal that was Murphy Brown (Candace Bergen) giving birth. That’s right, Murphy Brown‘s most memorable plot line became household news when Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the show for their main character’s decision to be a single working mother. The fact that it was so scandalous to conservatives like Quayle is further proof of Murphy Brown‘s rightful place in TV history. Murphy had relationships both before and during the show (the father of her son Avery was actually her ex-husband), but never lost sight of her goals. She was a mother first, a reporter second, who never cared what men thought of her. She was also pretty damn funny.
More amazing women to follow.
I don’t need no man,
The Collected Mutineer
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