To celebrate Women’s History Month, AOL TV compiled a list of the 100 most memorable female TV characters in primetime history. While the impressive list — it includes scores of AfterEllen.com favorites — spans decades of primetime’s leading ladies, it’s a little light when it comes to lesbians and minorities.
Debate all you will about whether Mary Tyler Moore (No. 1) or Lucy Ricardo (No. 3) deserved to top the list, there are some great characters included. The ranking and somewhat random character selections, however, are another thing. While no breakdown was provided on how the characters were selected or ranked, the list is extremely white and lacks overall context. Some examples:
You’ve got classic TV moms June Cleaver (No. 49), Carol Brady (No. 56) and even Marion Ross‘ under-appreciated Mrs. C from Happy Days (No. 73) as well as modern mothers Lauren Graham‘s Lorelai Gilmore from The Gilmore Girls (No. 57), Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter, aka Lucille Bluth (No. 29), Connie Britton‘s brilliant Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights (No. 17) and Edie Falco‘s Carmela Soprano (No. 7). But The Simpsons’ Marge Simpson (No. 24)?
Ass-kicking women from the 1970s ass-kicking women are represented with Farrah Fawcett‘s Charlie’s Angel Jill Munroe (No. 81), Lindsay Wagner‘s original Bionic Woman Jaime Sommers (No. 79) and Lynda Carter‘s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (No. 31). Then there’s the more recent brutal babes like Jennifer Garner‘s Sydney Bristow from Alias (No. 27) and Katee Sackhoff‘s Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica (No. 36). Mariska Hargitay seems low at No. 50 for her tough yet tender portrayal of Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU. Lucy Lawless‘ Xena scores at No. 25 and Gillian Anderson‘s Dana Scully from The X-Files checks in at No. 13, but I fail to understand how Kristen Bell‘s Veronica Mars cracks the top 10 (she’s No. 8). That’s only two away from Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s Buffy Summers (No. 6).
All of the Golden Girls are there and there’s one Friend (Jennifer Aniston‘s Rachel Green, No. 23), and one member of Sex and the City (Sarah Jessica Parker‘s Carrie Bradshaw, No. 41). Dynamic duos are also represented: Cagney and Lacey are both there (Tyne Daly, No. 39; Sharon Gless, No. 22), as are Laverne and Shirley (Cindy Williams, No. 42, Penny Marshall, No. 28). But so is Catherine Bach‘s Daisy Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard (No. 99). Apparently inspiring a fashion trend of short shorts makes you a great female TV character. As does being a bitch — Shannen Doherty‘s Brenda Walsh (No. 93) from the original Beverly Hills, 90210 topped characters like the out and proud Callie Torres from Grey’s Anatomy who didn’t even make the list. (Co-star Chandra Wilson did, at No. 89).
Even Miss Piggy — voiced by Frank Oz — was included at No. 26. That’s 52 slots higher than the only openly gay character on the entire list: Buffy’s Willow Rosenberg — who ranked a ridiculously low No. 78, and whose write-up failed to even mention the fact that her character was gay. (“A shy teen with little confidence when she was introduced, Willow begins to gain more self-assurance as she begins to perfect her magical skills. A brief foray to the dark side gave way to a more mature Willow, who understood the real power of her magic and its effects on others.”) Really? I’m sure coming out helped a little. Even Married … With Children‘s Peg Bundy scores higher at No. 46.
Meanwhile, only two out actresses made the list: Jane Lynch‘s Sue Sylvester from Glee lands at No. 100 and The Wire‘s Felicia “Snoop” Pearson (No. 74). While the real Snoop is openly gay, her character’s sexuality on the critically acclaimed series wasn’t as clear.
Other AfterEllen favorites on the list included Mary-Louise Parker‘s anti-soccer mom Nancy Botwin on Weeds (No. 98), Glenn Close‘s fierce Patty Hewes from Damages (No. 86), Kyra Sedgwick‘s clever Brenda Leigh Johnson from The Closer (No. 77); Daria Morgendorffer (No. 68), Claire Danes‘ Angela Chase from My So-Called Life (No. 63), Amy Poehler‘s brilliantly misguided Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation (No. 47), Julianna Margulies‘ Alicia Florrick from The Good Wife (No. 19), Allison Janney‘s C.J. Cregg from The West Wing (No. 15), and Tina Fey‘s Liz Lemon from 30 Rock (No. 14), who was upstaged by Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ Elaine Benes from Seinfeld, who seems insanely high at No. 5.
The list is seriously light on African-Americans as well: Phylicia Rashad‘s Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show at No. 9, and Nichelle Nichols‘ Lt. Uhura from the original Star Trek landed at No. 21.
Props to the list for including one of the first black characters on TV who wasn’t a maid, who also was half of the first interracial kiss on the small screen when she planted one on The Shat’s Captain Kirk. They’re joined by characters from Good Times, The Jeffersons and The Shield. Any one else find it puzzling that Jasmine Guy’s Whitley from A Different World ranked 65th, but Queen Latifah didn’t even make the list for her independent leader on Living Single? And there are even fewer Latino and Asian-American characters included.
While the list is fun to read and debate, it provides a clear example that we not only need more great roles for women, but that Hollywood also has to do better when it comes to writing realistic and inclusive programming with dynamic characters and casting minorities.
What female TV characters would you like to have seen included? Do you agree with the rankings? Who’s your No. 1?