So growing up as a teenager in the millennium and being a product of the early 90’s I guess you can say that there was a pretty big number of female characters showcased on television that shaped the idea of romance for young girls and young woman everywhere. However, there was definitely a lesson or two placed behind the stories lines of these young women finding the great loves of their lives, while trying to figure out who they are at the same time. Here are some female tv characters I thought it best to shine a light on…in no particular order….here it goes…
“Topanga” Lawrence (Boy Meets World)
*Marries Cory Matthews
Topanga and Cory were destined to be together. They were childhood friends and gradually worked their way up to dating, fell madly in love and married early in college. Throw in a kiss with a few random strangers for the two, multiple breakups some for good reason some for no reason at all, an almost move for Topanga, and a whole lot of oppressed sexual frustration for Cory and you have it all. It was a beautiful story to watch unfold. A story about young love and friendship and how the combination of the two means everything. But every great love story comes with it’s flaws. Topanga is one of the most independent female characters on this list. Ever since she was a child, Topanga fought to be an original spirit. Well known for being the “Weird, Smart Girl” Topanga hit high school and became a babe…(always was gorgeous, but guys finally started noticing, and so did Cory). Throughout the series Topanga stands up for woman’s rights, stands up for them to be treated equally and respectfully. Expressing her opinions unafraid of what her male peers may say. Always serving as a positive view for young girls. She was the voice of a young girl in a show that was based on a young boy and his life lessons. It was Topanga who asked Cory to marry her. But she also gave up Yale to be with him. Throughout the love story of these two you will see them shift their independence, you will see them co-depend on their love as well. But in a nut shell Topanga was a character who knew she could stand on her own…she just chose not to. She chose to accept love into her life and to accept the bond of man that comes along with it. And she was a character that understand there is a way to be in love with a man and still respect her feminist values.
Kelly Kapowski (Saved By The Bell)
*Marries Zack Morris
Kelly was the “IT” girl at Bayside High. She was the girl, guys fought over. Kelly and Zack were a slow build up…they dated then they didn’t, they kissed, then they didn’t. They were friends, then they fought. Only to be married later in Saved By The Bell; The College Years. I wouldn’t say that they qualify as one of the greatest love stories of all time…but for 90’s sake let’s say they did. Cuz I freakin’ LOVED them together. It was clear they had chemistry and as an audience member, you rooted for them, you expected them to work out in the end. And no one likes to be let down. But if you ask me, it was fun to watch, but I didn’t see the strong woman finding her life long love. In fact Kelly wasn’t that role…Jesse on the other hand….she was more like it. With a mind strongly wired with feminism, she put men in their place and made player AC Slater shape the hell up.
Kelly Taylor (Beverly Hills 90210)
*Engaged to (but never marries) Brandon Walsh, Ends up with Dylan Mckay
Kelly, Kelly, Kelly. Another Kelly. Only difference…this one was blonde and just a wee bit damaged. While early years Kelly tried being bouncy and happy and painted Beverly Hills a sassy shade of perfect pink with her long legs, rich lifestyle and fun taste for fashion, on the inside Kelly was suffering in silence. As she got older things only got more complicated as the idea of choosing between the good guy Brandon and the bad boy Dylan became intensively overwhelming. Throw in a few cheating scandals on all ends, deaths, and personal struggles, and you have an Aaron Spelling Drama. To me Kelly never knew what she wanted. Although, as most girls her age…never do either. She was some what
relatable. However, she was selfish at times, and didn’t always think ahead. Didn’t always think about how she could be affecting other people. She also broke a few hearts in the process, when constantly being pulled toward Dylan. A man who probably loved her but didn’t really deserve her in the long run. That’s why girls….date the Dylan, marry the hell out of the Brandon. The series leaves us with you thinking Kelly and Dylan end up together, but if you ask me Kelly never really got the true idea of love, or the true concept of feminism and standing up for yourself. In other words she was just a girl living in her own world. A very confused, uncertain world. But hey, I still loved her! She ended up being one of my favorites. haha. (BUT I loved her with BRANDON!)
[More on Ross & Rachel’s relationship in another post coming soon…]
*Marries then divorces Ross Geller, has a baby with him years later and moves in with him, then moves out…but later ends up with him anyway.
Rachel and Ross…holy crap. Where the hell do I begin. This is one of the most back and forth, up and down, side to side, diagonal love stories I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Throw in a shit ton of breakups masked with useless characters that served as suitable rebounds, all for them to end up together in the end. Rachel started the series as a dependent rich girl. Until she became a runaway bride, looking for a place to live and a shoulder to cry on, oh and the idea of needing a job for the first time in her entire life. But she did it, she did it all and she became a better person for it, and an amazing friend. Throw in Ross, a man who has been in love with her since the 9th grade. And Rachel although naive to his adoration for her for years, finally finds herself in love and pure bliss. Until she lands her dream job in fashion and is too busy to make time for her boyfriend, which only leads to fights, accusations and a momentary break from their relationship in which Ross sleeps with another woman. When Rachel finds out, the road their relationship takes is a bumpy one. As lovers/friends, become foes and they can barely stand to be in the same room with each other. However, Rachel held her own. Spoke her mind, and although at times she could be a little ditzy and spoiled, and throw a dig and a joke here and there toward Ross, they eventually over came their drama and realized they belonged together. At the root, they were always friends. They along with their daughter were a family. And even though she was Paris bound, hours away from living a life long fashion infused dream, Rachel came back and chose love. A woman who can stand on her own, who could support her child, but chose to accept the love of a man named Ross. Sometimes, the greatest dream in the world isn’t worth a thing, if you don’t have someone to share it with.
Chloe & Riley Carlson (So Little Time)
*Significant Other for Chloe- Lennon
Ah the Olsen Twins. Who wasn’t affected by these two? I mean come on! The most prominent memory I have of being obsessed with these two was their characters in So Little Time. Ashley was always my favorite and she played Chloe. She was the one with more of a love life, so let’s go with her. For starters we saw her over exert herself in trying to win over the attention of handsome fellows, making a fool of herself….(as all girls do at some point) but then she began to mature and realize she’s better than that. Chloe meets Lennon by accident and is rather annoyed by him…which in turn causes a unique balance of romantic comedy as they irritate each other and fall in love. Chloe is somewhat ditzy at times, loves fashion, enjoys a very privileged life, but has quite a big heart.(Hmmm she and Rachel Green would get along haha.) She may get wrapped up in guy drama at times, but knows how to balance her future and her feelings for Lennon. I think it’s safe to say Chloe’s way of dealing with guys had come a long way when the show ended.
Lizzie McGuire (Lizzie McGuire)
*Significant Other- Gordo (her best friend) shows signs of liking her all throughout the series, Lizzie finally picks up on it and kisses him in The Lizzie McGuire movie….Hallelujah!
Lizzie! OMG if I wasn’t completely obsessed with her, I don’t know what the definition of obsessed is. I wanted to dress like her, so bad. I can’t even tell you how many times I tried to style my hair like hers! She was just the coolest thing when I was in middle school, and it was amazing to be able to relate to a character who was my age. Going through things that we possibly were going through. Lizzie was an ordinary girl. She was someone who you could see yourself being friends with. However, there were things about Lizzie that I look back on and realize maybe she wasn’t the best role model at times. For starters she was obsessed with the most popular boy in class; Ethan Craft (why? I never understood his appeal but hey that’s just me). Next she was obsessed with being popular. And last but not least, she was completely naive to the fact that her adorable and kind hearted best friend Gordo was completely in love with her. There were several times where Lizzie got so wrapped up in trying to change how she looked, how she talked, what she wore, who she was to try and impress Ethan and fit in.And often times her friends and family would have to call her out on it. And granted I think that is a somewhat realistic concept, all girls have those moments of trying to strive for acceptance. And in hindsight, it was refreshing to see that not every girl on tv gets her way, not every girl gets the popular guy, or becomes popular herself. But instead she’s surrounded by caring family and great friends who always have her back. Who are always there to snap her back to reality when she started to lose who she was. Because when she was her kind hearted, free spirited self, she really did rock, and really shouldn’t change. So once you figured that out Lizzie, we were all very proud. There was always a lesson behind every crazy thing she ever did, and she always came out of it a little wiser, and a little more confident. Lizzie McGuire, flaws and all was EVERYTHING to young girls everywhere. And I wouldn’t have her anyway. At the root she was a brave girl, unafraid to put herself out there, unafraid of new experiences, and unafraid to stand up and do the right thing. Sometimes you have to make a fool of yourself to realize that you’re better than that. Hilary Duff is Queen.
Raven Baxter (That’s So Raven)
There was a boy…I think his name was Devon. But let’s not pretend that was an epic love story. What I loved about Raven was her ability to stand up for what she believed in, even if it was hard. Even though her psychic abilities were farfetched and unrealistic, it was entertaining as hell. And Raven was quite the unconventional character, and a positive one at that. And can we just congratulate her on her curvacious figure…not every lead needs to be stick thin and have the “perfect” body media likes to plague us with.
*Fell in love with Lucas Scott, got her heart broken and years later found her prince in Julian Baker and had baby boy twins 10 years later.
Brooke Davis….what can I say. If there is any one character who has been dragged through Love’s dirt repeatedly, it’s Brooke Davis. She starts off like many others; Rich, Beautiful, Loves shopping, and loves the attention she gets from guys even more. Coming from a broken home, with parents who barely give her the time of day, Brooke Davis is a girl who unknowingly has been searching for love and a family her entire life. In her first attempt, she falls hard, but gets her heart trampled on by Lucas Scott, as he cheats on her with her best friend Peyton. After many fights and a few vicious friendly exiles, her family going broke and moving away causing her to move in with Lucas’ mother, then later gets an apartment of her own, several attempts at mending a broken heart (Felix who?) Brooke dives into a new project. She starts an online clothing line, where she sells her very own fashion designs; clothes/bros. Lucas and Brooke find themselves back together and in love until Peyton realizes she still has feelings for Lucas. (Do you hate Peyton yet?…cuz I did and still kinda do).
Turning the Brooke and Lucas relationship upside down and causing Lucas to eventually down the line end up with Peyton, both characters eventually ride off into the sunset and leave the series for good. While, Brooke’s heart broken again she goes into business with a not so friendly face; her mother (whom is pictured for the first time in Season 5). While she lives a high life of fashion and fame in New York, Brooke realizes she’s missing something; a child. Her need to be a mother greatens and she moves back home to Tree Hill. She tries adopting, even though she is single and at the high point of her career, but is only granted a trial adoption, where she helps provide a home and a monetary assistance to a child from another country in need of surgery. Guy after guy comes and goes, but Brooke is focused on herself and her dream of becoming a mother. In walks a somewhat cocky, smooth talking, Julian Baker; Peyton’s Los Angeles ex. And we have a match made in hell….for a brief moment. Brooke finds Julian repellent, and seems to think he has come back to steal Peyton from Lucas. Well Julian’s motives appear to be less then kosher, we later see he was just there for business and to find the girl who completes his love story…Brooke Davis. Brooke and Julian are a wild ride. Very indecisive about the longevity of their relationship. Brooke has been plagued with reasons of doubt and mistrust and it hinders her out look on love and her relationship with Julian. But it all gets straightened out eventually and Julian does a lot of sacrificing to be with her; moving his life to tree hill to start a life with her. Brooke has quite the story line and granted it’s a lot of soul searching and insecurity but she also comes into her own and she realizes she’s stronger than she knows. She can make it on her own, and stubbornly would have, but those around her just wouldn’t let her. Love catches her in the end, and she gets the love, the family and the motherhood she’s always wanted. Oh Sophia Bush. I have such a mega girl crush on you! She kicks criminal ass on her new show Chicago PD.
*Fell in love with geeky Seth Cohen and married him years later.
The hidden virgin of Orange County, who was rich, privileged, ditzy, loved shopping and mani/pedis, trashy magazines gossip and a good party. (Why they never did a One Tree Hill/The OC crossover is beyond me, Summer and Brooke would have been besties!) Summer enjoyed the lifestyle but soon realized that after being the apple of sweet “geeky” Seth Cohen’s eye for so long, she was to her dismay returning his feelings. Summer is an interesting character…bossy to say the least and your stereotypical rich Orange County girl, with a twist. But she does a complete 180. Her bossiness doesn’t change much, as she’s a woman who fights for what she wants whether it’s the latest prada bag, or the fight for world peace. Summer loses her best friend in a horrific car accident and challenges her grief in college activism where she becomes who she was always meant to be. While breakups are inevitable, and other love interests had their turn, Seth proved to be the one for Summer. And as she fought for the good of the environment, Seth fought for her. And she soon realized it was ok to have both. While Summer headed off to join an activism group that would take her away from Seth for quite some time, he waited for her return, supporting her every step of the way. Now there’s a good man, supporting a strong woman.
Ah good old television teen romances.
Unrealistic expectations aren’t they?
I’ve always said…
“television and movie romances crush a girl’s soul.”
And yet here I am 23 years old unable to stop myself from writing stories about love…about people falling in and out of love, about girls traveling through life trying to find out who they are and where they belong all while they have to decide who the right one is to bring along for the journey. It’s an age old story that has been told countless times, in different ways, with different faces and different love.
To finish my recently stated self quote…
“And yet one day, I hope to be one of those soul crushers.”
Allow me to explain.
Growing up watching the love stories of the girls turned to young women I mentioned above, unfold. I was always fascinated by the arc of a relationship and by how the female character would or would not remain her own person, and keep true to herself, her dreams, and her life before the guy. We’ve all seen the girl who drops all aspects of her previous life just to spend time with her boyfriend.
However, there is nothing more beautiful then seeing how two actors can bring a love story to life. To make you believe something and to make you feel something. To find a way to balance the dreams they want for themselves and the love they have for each other. If you can invest yourself in the story, that writer is doing something right. But it can also make you reflect on the idea that the boys in your life are seldom like the ones you fall in love with every week on tv. That’s where the term soul crushers comes in. But once you get past that feeling of lost hope, that your boyfriend is never going to measure up (haha…sorry boys) to Seth Cohen’s quirky adoration for Summer Roberts all his life or Julian Baker’s undeniable love for Brooke Davis, you realize Love is the root of every story.
I don’t care what setting it is. I don’t care if it’s the freakin’ zombie apocalypse and you have to fight to survive flesh eating monsters…I don’t care if a girl is trapped in prison and the flirtation from a cute guard helps her escape her current reality. There’s relationships that form, there is love there.
Maggie found Glenn in “The Walking Dead,” and Daya found John in “Orange is the New Black.” Give me any tv show, give me any movie and I WILL find you a love story. A strong lead female character is an incredible thing to see being portrayed.
Watching people fall in love is timeless. No matter the genre…comedy, drama, action, mystery….at the core, there will always be a guy who falls for a girl, and girl who falls for a guy. [Or hey it’s the 21st century, a girl who falls for a girl, or a guy who falls for a guy. We’re all people. I don’t judge.] Love is timeless. But so is Feminism. And they can easily hold hands, if you have a man who respects it.
End. Of. Story.
One thought on “In Love & Feminism”
[…] The decision to surround Lexie with male characters was to emphasize the fact that she was the lead, she was the one to beat. She was the woman scorned, the powerhouse, the woman who can take care of herself no matter how many men were surrounding her. I love when stories have strong independent women in them. (yes she was a mobster but that’s besides the point, haha.) Lexie was a femme fatale with a heart of gold once you washed away the pain and fear. It’s a story about knowing she can stand on her own, but learning that she didn’t have to. A story about falling in love and still remaining a strong independent woman who believes in feminism. [for more examples of this check out my post *In Love & Feminism*] […]