9 not-so-favorite fictional women in TV and film who we actually love
Squeaky clean, heroically perfect protagonists are so overrated.
Give us characters who are unapologetic in their transparent faults. More importantly, give us depictions of women with narratives that actually resemble the many women in our lives. To commemorate International Women’s Day, below is a compilation of just some of our favorite women in film and television that audiences loved to hate.
From characters like Annalise Keating to Skyler White, these are the queens who were flawed, complex, and most important of all: human.
Kathryn Merteuil, Cruel Intentions
Kathryn Merteuil said it best: “It’s okay for guys like you and Court to fuck everyone . . . God forbid I exude confidence and enjoy sex. Do you think I relish the fact that I have to act like Mary Sunshine 24/7 so I can be considered a lady? I’m the Marcia fucking Brady of the Upper East Side, and sometimes I want to kill myself.” Iconic!
While her relationship with her stepbrother was low-key uncomfortable, she’s a wildly complex human being who possesses no shame in being relentlessly her—set against the milieu of double standards within sexuality. In other words, she is all of us and we are all her.
Paris Geller, Gilmore Girls
Not only did Paris provide the best lines throughout the series (“No, Rory, this great man was not brought down by my vagina, okay?” “Sure, we’re girls, so we could only be arguing about a boy, right?”), she’s also the epitome of strong, smart, and hard working women simply cast off as too aggressive. Men, on the other hand, would be praised for these attributes.
Her friendship with Rory got off on a bumpy start at Chilton, but there’s no denying that she played an integral, much-needed role in this eccentric series.
Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada
Serving as the textbook definition of the term #GirlBoss, Miranda Priestly is depicted as brutally blunt and demanding in her role as an all-powerful editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine. Reiterating the aforementioned Paris Geller argument above, this plays into the universal narrative of influential, authoritative women measured as bitches with a capital B, all while their male counterparts would be praised as affluent leaders.
Sexism? For women? Groundbreaking.
Annalise Keating, How to Get Away With Murder
Criminal law professor, defense attorney, and suspected killer. A woman with a dim childhood, a woman in constant battle with her own demons, and a woman who has experienced being shot. Wait… so these aren’t the typical characteristics inhabited by women in modern culture? Still, the complexities of this deeply-flawed, very-real character is what makes her so great.
It’s okay for women to be flawed. What a concept.
O-Ren Ishii, Kill Bill Volume 1
We’ve all secretly harbored the desire to become assassins or queens of an underworld—this is a common fact for women, trailed closely behind achieving the perfect set of brows. While O-Ren Ishii was part of the assassin squad responsible for the attempted murder of the Bride (which resulted in an uncomfortable but still low-key kickass hospital scene that involved lots of testosterone blood), it’s hard to hate someone who has exacted revenge on a murderous pedophile at the age of 11 and becomes queen of Tokyo’s underworld.
Plus, anyone who encounters death by de-scalping deserves a solid spot on this list.
Skyler White, Breaking Bad
A perfect example of the demonization of women, Skyler received perhaps the most jarring and unwarranted hate through her role as doting wife—one that did her best to keep her and her children’s lives afloat upon discovering the truth of her meth-producing husband.
Fans of the series find solace in their hatred by constantly bringing up her affair with Ted and labelling her a slut—never mind the fact that her husband is a murderous drug dealer who has: poisoned a young boy via Ricin, watched as a woman overdose in bed without even thinking of helping her, manipulated the life of once-student and now-drug dealing partner, and turned his entire family’s life upside down.
But yeah, Skyler is the worst, right? Wrong!
Olivia Pope, Scandal
While she rigged an election and, you know, engaged in an affair with a married president during her time as director of communications in the White House, her complex character development throughout the series illustrates nothing short of the double standards within the political realm that has been historically male-dominated.
She’s branded as selfish, a home wrecker, and someone who uses others to get where she needs to go—all fairly negative attributes, yes, but there’s no denying that public opinion is much more severe despite these traits being understood as the general norm among the world of government, no?
Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
Let’s just conveniently forget that Cersei had an incestuous thing going on with her brother for a sec. A fierce momma who cared deeply for her children, she was forced into a marriage she had no say in and eventually married someone who repeatedly cheated on her and didn’t care for her.
Despite going through a series of losses, she remained resilient — and now is Queen of Westerns. Welp.
Marissa Cooper, The OC
Marissa Cooper was the total embodiment of privilege, and her self-destructive tendencies didn’t make her as loveable as her sassy counterpart and BFF, Summer Roberts. Still, it shouldn’t detract from her internalized issue of depression and alcoholism. Her character illustrates multifaceted layers and diminishes the notion that well-off women couldn’t possibly have demons.
She was also an integral piece to the group of friends. Her death resulted in a garbage excuse of a final season that everyone basically pretends never happened.
Laura Palmer, Twin Peaks
Living two different lives and falling victim to murder, Laura Palmer left nothing but turmoil in her wake as her small town tried to piece together just what had happened. Viewers will be quick to judge her tumultuous life choices of drug use, involvement in One Eyed Jack’s, and masquerading who she really was, but it’s important to examine all the demons she had been fighting that mostly stemmed from an unstable father.
She was, after all, only human.
“Females are strong as hell” suddenly has more expansive meaning, right?