Love ‘The Bold Type’? From ‘Shadowhunters’ to ‘Riverdale’, watch these other feminist YA shows
Freeform’s The Bold Type is back. The bold and sassy dramedy inspired by the glamorous life of former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles follows three friends – Jane, Kat, and Sutton – all working for Scarlet magazine and living outrageous, luxurious lives in New York City.
The girls’ jobs provide a prestigious platform to express their love of style & fashion, but their identities and relationships are tested by the demanding world of writing for one of the most globally popular magazines.
Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, and Meghann Fahy star as the three tight friends, as well as Sam Page as a suave member of the board of directors and Melora Hardin (our absolute favorite) as the magazine’s ruthless editor. If you ever thought The Devil Wears Prada was a tad too short, look no further than Freeform’s dazzling fashion series.
While we aren’t always onboard for some obviously virtue-signaling feminist moments – and we do think the central storyline about a thriving magazine industry is a little dated (Have the writers read the news in the past 5 years?) – we do give the show props for its girlpower themes and commitment to diversity storylines and casting.
If The Bold Type has whetted your appetite for seeing more strong young women on screen, there are so many other terrific young adult shows making legit feminist statements in their narratives while featuring strong, complex female characters.
Here are nine shows currently on the air featuring female characters you’ll want to stream after you devour this season of The Bold Type.
Between characters like Clary Fray (Katherine McNamara), Isabelle Lightwood (Emeraude Toubia), and Maia Roberts (Alisha Wainwright), Shadowhunters is a show that delights in providing strong, complex female characters who exude confidence and power. Wainright highlighted the especially significant impact of how her character is represented in the show through how the fans respond to it, telling Syfy:
“For me, having a lot of young black women coming up to me and vocalizing seeing a black woman who’s not playing a secondary character to a male was actually something that they very much enjoy and are looking for on television today.”
8. Dear White People
The Netflix Originals show has three incredibly strong black female characters at the heart of it – Samantha (Logan Browning), Coco (Antoinette Robertson), and Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson) – but they’re more just the archetypal “strong black woman” we sometimes see on TV. Though they’re all undeniably dynamic and tough in their own way, all three also depicted as being vulnerable with the show exploring the true complexity and cost of maintaining strength and resilience.
The journey that we see Henry (Maddie Hasson) go on in the new YouTube Originals series is a challenging one as she develops strange new powers after being sexually assaulted by a classmate. She’s subsequently vulnerable yet strong following the experience, and is scared but driven to fight back and harness her power.
As Hasson told the OC Register, there’s nothing “teenage” about how Henry is feeling – her experiences are more complex than that. “She just has this hardness about her that is so genuine and no necessarily put on in any way . . . I think a lot of young female characters who are strong are called angsty, and I think that’s a mistake. Angsty is belittling.”
6. Broad City
Seriously, can we just take yet another moment to applaud the sexually adventurous, weed loving, bombastic comedy of Ilana (Ilana Glazer) and Abbi (Abbi Jacobson)? Broad City might focus on the experiences of two young women out of their teenage years, but it’s nonetheless a monumental – and hilarious – exploration of the missteps, misadventures, and mischievous joys of becoming badass women in a big city.
Broad City is airing its final season on Comedy Central right now, so make sure to catch it while you can.
5. Cloak & Dagger
Speaking to Digital Spy, Olivia Holt – who plays Tandy a.k.a. Dagger – praised the show for being “very feminist” and said of her character: “I’m very grateful to play a character that has so many layers, and is strong and complicated, and bold and has all of these dimensions to her. That’s what makes her interesting, and makes us women feel so attached to her and relate to her.”
Like fellow Marvel superhero Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Tandy is messy and flawed but she’s also sweet and tough, making her a compelling young female character who’s given the space to make mistakes – despite her superpowers.
Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) both contribute meaningfully to the plot of The CW’s darkest teen show and may be more complex than Archie (KJ Apa) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) are. Despite being based on the Archie Comics characters, they’re also incredibly well rounded and not molded as archetypes – they’re smart, outspoken, ferocious, and sexually adventurous without being shamed for it.
Throw in the badass exploits of Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni (Vanessa Morgan), and Riverdale has one of the strongest and most diverse sets of female characters on television.
3. The 100
The show has been accused of succumbing to white feminism on occasion, but at its core the young adult female characters of The 100 are still some of the fiercest on TV. Clarke Griffin has taken the baton left by Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) and Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in subverting every conceivable stereotype about young blonde girls. Meanwhile Raven (Lindsey Morgan) is smart, ingenuitive, and incredibly capable.
As Popmatters said of the show, “The 100 is bursting with dynamic female characters, leaders, stoics, emotional messes, and warriors; here, the full range of human possibility is afforded to the gender that is so often hemmed in by a narrow range of socialized expectations.” The 100 is back later this month on Netflix.
2. On My Block
The Netflix Originals show delves deeply into some of the everyday challenges of being a teenage girl in the inner-city without leaning on stereotypes. Through the characters of Monse (Sierra Capri) and Olivia (Ronni Hawk), the show explores some of the baggage that can come with enjoying a teenage sexual awakening such as street harassment and slut shaming.
The characters might not be as strong as some of the others on the list, but they’re at least drawn with depth and warmth. The show returned to Netflix last month for a sensational season – if you haven’t enjoyed both seasons yet. this is one to add to your bingewatching schedule.
1. 13 Reasons Why
The show might not always get everything right, but its unflinching representation of some of the difficulties young women can face in high school is something 13 Reasons Why does exceptionally well. Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) and Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) are two of the most intriguing teenage characters of any young adult drama of the past decade or so.