Sophie Carter-Kahn
July 18, 2015 7:00 am

If Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s classic poem “How do I love thee? (Sonnet 43)” were about television, it might go something more like this:

Television, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My tv set can reach, when hung within sight on the wall
For the ends of relaxing and idealizing fictional lives.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most desperate need, for entertainment and distraction.
I love thee freely, though I pay for Hulu Plus.
I love thee purely, as I watch entire seasons.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In the Bachelorette finale, or between Ross and Rachel.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With the cancellation of Pushing Daisies.
I love thee with the popcorn, laughter, fandoms, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall love thee better when I can afford a Starz subscription.

More like Elizabeth Barrett Browsing Netflix, am I right? That is a poetry joke, folks. I really do love tv, though. There’s nothing like having an alternate world of friends, crushes, and imagined lives to make you feel less alone or to make you laugh at the end of a long day.

I will always love television for the grown-up lady role models I’ve found in television shows, whose achievements, talents, and foibles are all equally available to me as a viewer. I love having these strong and flawed and real women to look up to, almost as much as I love the people in my off-screen life who act as role models. Here are six of the fictional women that I still want to be when I grow up.

Olivia Benson, Law and Order: SVU

Olivia Benson, star of the franchise gem Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, is amazing enough to inspire Taylor Swift’s namesake cat. Detective (now Sergeant) Benson is tough and kind, strong and vulnerable, thoughtful and decisive, even while faced with the horrors of the cases in the Special Victim’s Unit. She makes tough decisions, never taking them lightly, and never gets intimidated or scared by the dangerous situations she finds herself in. She has had romantic relationships, but her work is most important to her, and she’s never shamed for it. Olivia pursued single motherhood like a confident boss when she knew she wanted it, and she attacks bosshood like a loving but cool and professional mother. She inspires loyalty, just as she remains unswervingly devoted to her morals, her job, and her team. Every time I hear that little dunh dunh, I know Benson is gonna kick some more butt.

Olivia Pope, Scandal

Oh, Olivia Pope. (Also, clearly Olivia is a Power Name.) All of the words have already been written about how fabulous her style is, how fierce her ambition is, and how powerful her reach is. She literally made someone president (sort of) and then opened a firm to “fix problems.” She balances love and work in some ridiculous way that still manages to come together. One of Olivia’s most role model-worthy traits, for me, is her ability to wear white outfits without spilling ANYTHING on them.

Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights

Sometimes, when I’m faced with a particularly tough situation, I think to myself, “WWTTD?” What Would Tami Taylor Do, indeed. During Friday Night Lights, the answer was be an incredible mom, partner, and school counselor, as well as boast a love of wine and dancing that Amy Schumer lovingly parodied on her show recently. Tami deals with her husband’s career’s ups and downs with grace and constant support, while always advocating for her own goals. Her marriage is one I look to when I think about how I want my future marriage to be.  She is an agent of change in the conservative Texas community where they live, while still finding time to have the hard talks with her daughter, Julie. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose, when Mrs. Coach is behind you.

Carla Espinosa, Scrubs

Carla is proof that you don’t have to be a “cool” girl to be a funny one. She’s no-nonsense and she gets stuff done at Sacred Heart as head nurse. She’s a match for her husband Turk’s goofiness, as well as the go-to fixer for most other characters’ stress and problems. She doesn’t take crap from anybody, and she’s serious about her career. Dr. Cox, the show’s resident meanie, respects and likes Carla – it’s impossible not to! I admire her decisiveness and ability to quickly assess and deal with emergencies, medical and otherwise. And her “I’m annoyed” stare is KILLER.

 Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Downton Abbey

Lady Grantham has the in-the-moment wit that I would kill for. She knows when to stick to her guns and when to let her views evolve, as well as having the best zingers in the world (rivaled only by that other spicy matriarch, Lucille Bluth). Violet is extremely protective of her family, as well as of her point of view. Although she lives in a time of change and grew up in a time of tradition, she manages to walk the line of staying current while staying true to herself. She is fiercely intelligent and believes whole-heartedly in her own self-worth. There are literally too many good one-liners that fall from her diamond brain to choose, so here are a sampling of her best zingers.

Go on with yourself, Lady Grantham.

Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation

Leslie’s attitude is the exact opposite of Violet Crawley’s, and we need her just as much as our role model. Her unrelenting (and sometimes illogical) positivity makes her team of lovable weirdos work. She’s a vocal feminist, and her devoted friendship with Ann is one of the most adorable relationships in television history. She believes in the importance of environmentalism, as well as the endurance of love. Sometimes, Leslie lets her temper and her mouth get away from her, but she always remembers how to apologize and move forward in style. Leslie makes me laugh and never takes herself too seriously, and I so admire her genuine devotion to her goals and friends.

These characters are so easy to idolize because they are women with vibrant, rich, and full-bodied personalities. They make choices without apologizing for them, they take risks and stay true to themselves. All these women have careers that they work hard at, but they do not allow themselves to be defined by their jobs – or their relationships. Now, to find out how to roll them all in to one and become that beautiful amalgamation!

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(Images via , , , here, and here.)

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