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17 July 2008 @ 14:25
my version of meta involves lists.  
NOTE: Please note the "What I Love" in the titles of the lists below. And please refrain from passing judgement on my taste in occasionally cheesy genre television, as that is very much not the point of this exercise.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of shows from the last 20 years with female leads. The point for me was to point out the female leads in stories I personally have loved. Even if I didn't love them all the way through (Buffy, for example). Even if the material itself is not Shakespeare (one more person bad mouths Special Unit 2 to me, and I Will Cut You. I Mean it).

If you are convinced I have missed a vital character/show, please go back to the "What I [Personally] Have Loved" and feel free to point out characters in stories you have loved. But remember--this list is very personal to me. I may well have forgot someone I meant to include (Vicki Nelson, from Blood Ties for example got added when someone made a meep? noise). Or it may not have made my list for a good reason (i.e. Alias. I did not love it. Nikita OTOH, was an entirely different story. Until it started To Suck. See Buffy).

Vaguely Recent (i.e. Last 10 Years) Fictional Things What I Love With Female Leads Who Are Actually Leads and Not Solely Sidekicks/Wives/Girlfriends/Supporting Cast

The Middleman (Wendy)
Bones (Brennan)
Blood Ties (Victory Nelson)
Sarah Connor Chronicles (Sarah Connor)
Sarah Jane Adventures (Sarah Jane, Maria Jackson)
Doomsday (Maj. Eden Sinclair)
MirrorMask (Helena)
Wire in the Blood (Carol Jordan)
Catwoman (Selina Kyle) [Post-Zero Hour Brubaker run]
Battlestar Galactica (Starbuck, Roslin, Six)
Howl's Moving Castle (Sophie)
Spirited Away Chihiro
Pirates of the Caribbean (Elizabeth Swan)
Spaced (Daisy Steiner)
Gosford Park (Mary MacEachran)
Red Cap (Jo McDonough)
SportsNight (Dana)
Mulan Mulan
Special Unit 2 (Kate Benson)
Dark Angel (Max)
Farscape (Aeryn Sun)

Not At All Recent (i.e. Before 1998) Fictional Things What I Love With Female Leads Who Are Actually Leads and Not Solely Sidekicks/Wives/Girlfriends/Supporting Cast

Wonder Woman (Diana)
Labyrinth (Sarah)
Jem (erm... the entire cast)
Press Gang (Linda Day)
Gargoyles (Elisa Maza)
The X-Files (Scully)*
Voyager (Janeway)*
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Buffy)*
Nikita (Nikita)*
vr5 (Sydney Bloom)
Earth 2 (Devon Adair)
Lois & Clark (Lois Lane)
Bionic Woman (Jamie Sommers)
Moonlighting (Maddie Hayes)
Scarecrow & Mrs King (Amanda King)
Remington Steele (Laura Holt)
Kiki's Delivery Service (Kiki)
My Neighbour Totoro (Mei, Satsuki)
Léon (Mathilde)
The Thomas Crown Affair (Catherine Banning)

* I did love them once, even if I still mentally add "before they started to suck", so I left them in.


ETA: I so need to work up a list of Fictional Characters What I Love And Who Are Awesome Even if They Are Sidekicks/Wives/Girlfriends/Supporting Cast, but for me today, it's really all about the Leads and Co-Leads.

Also, I define lead as "who's story is this?" Which is why Laura Holt and Wendy Watson, etc. because you cannot deny that in their cases, it is their story. They are in partnerships with men, they are co-leads with men, but the story we are being told is undeniably theirs.

EMETA: And before you ask, I left out Doctor Who and Torchwood on purpose. Cos if you ask me, Gwen and Rose, Martha, and Donna are all co-leads. But if you ask large chunks of fandom, they're sidekicks or love interests or both. And that's not a question I really want to get into here or now, cos I'm holding onto my sanity by a thread. But I'd say Gwen, at least, is presented from day one (literally) as a lead. As was Rose, tho by the time we hit the third series, it's more equally the Doctor's story, than his companions' stories. Which is a shift the series had to make (which I fully support), once it had been successfully relaunched.
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Valivioletisblue on 17th July 2008 19:46 (UTC)
Wait, how the hell is Gwen a "love interest"? She's the "Bayliss" of the show, to use a Homicide metaphor, the new rookie cop.
ljc: alias smith and jonestaraljc on 17th July 2008 19:52 (UTC)
I think she's seen as "Jack's sidekick" by a lot of people, with Jack as the lead. Same deal with the DOctor's companions. You ask one chunk of audience, they say it's an equal partnership. You ask another, it's Doctor-and-sidekick. Hence me not opening that can of worms if I can avoid it.

But I come down on the side of Leads, me.
(no subject) - soren_nyrond on 18th July 2008 07:08 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - taraljc on 18th July 2008 13:41 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - soren_nyrond on 18th July 2008 15:05 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - taraljc on 18th July 2008 15:24 (UTC) (Expand)
printer's ink and blood: can i keep her?jheti on 17th July 2008 19:53 (UTC)
IT'S SO VERY. *steals.*

Credit when repeated like a repeating thing. ^_^
ljc: hell yeah (ljc)taraljc on 17th July 2008 20:42 (UTC)
I keep remembering thigns I've left off. Something tells me the list will get MUCH LONGER once I get home.
(Deleted comment)
ljc: hell yeah (kitty)taraljc on 17th July 2008 20:15 (UTC)
shit, I left off Brubaker's run on Catwoman *facepalms*

*edits*

Oh, that list would be depressing. And be headed with "Chloe SUllivan".
(Deleted comment)
Sanj: Need an iconsanj on 17th July 2008 20:22 (UTC)
I love this list. Did you never see Babylon 5? I would count at least Delenn and Ivanova as leads, even if Delenn was also sometimes a romantic interest.

It pains me to know that Buffy is now officially a "not even vaguely recent" show.

*feels old*
ljc: bones (art made science her bitch)taraljc on 17th July 2008 20:40 (UTC)
It started in 1996, so it went in the "older than a decade" list.
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: vickiwiliqueen on 17th July 2008 20:29 (UTC)
*clears throat, points at icon*

Also, if you do not know Quest for Camelot, I must tie you down and remedy that sometime. 1998 was an awesome summer to be a little girl. Or a bigger girl, for that matter. (Since it was also the summer of Elena de la Vega and Danielle de Barbarac.)
ljc: epic fail 2taraljc on 17th July 2008 20:34 (UTC)
I am so made of epic fail today.
(no subject) - wiliqueen on 17th July 2008 20:47 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - taraljc on 17th July 2008 23:16 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wiliqueen on 18th July 2008 11:59 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kattahj on 17th July 2008 22:08 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wiliqueen on 18th July 2008 11:57 (UTC) (Expand)
beatrice_otterbeatrice_otter on 17th July 2008 20:30 (UTC)
Not a great fan of Stargate, I see. (Stargate was my first major online fandom, so I'm always surprised to come across a list like this it's not on, and then I realize: wait, your tastes have branched out, you have people on your flist for other reasons than Stargate!)

My list would be a lot shorter; I don't tend to have a lot of fandoms at any one time, and aside from the shows I am fannish about, don't tend to watch a lot of TV. For instance, I've only seen six of the shows/movies on your list--BSG, PotC, Gosford Park, Labyrinth, Buffy, and Voyager.
beatrice_otter: Vader and Leiabeatrice_otter on 17th July 2008 20:31 (UTC)
Heh. Stargate was my main (only) real fandom for so long, and now I don't even have a Stargate icon!
(no subject) - taraljc on 17th July 2008 20:39 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - beatrice_otter on 17th July 2008 21:20 (UTC) (Expand)
ice_feather on 17th July 2008 20:42 (UTC)
Another Sarah fan, good to see. So many people within the Labyrinth fandom seem to hate her, and my brain just can't process that. How can you like Labyrinth if you hate Sarah? I know Jareth is teh sex, but come on. And Sarah grows and learns from her adventure and all signs point toward her become a more mature, better person at the end of the movie.

And Elizabeth Swann. The Elizabeth hate in POTC fandom drives me absolutely crazy. It's so obviously jealously driven or immature slashes hating on the female just for being female.

I agree with you about Gwen, Rose and Martha being leads. The shows are presented from their POVs too.
ljc: stealin heartztaraljc on 17th July 2008 20:43 (UTC)
I'm not in POTC or Labyrinth fandoms really ata ll, so I am going purely off my relationship with the texts.

I can understand the ElLizabeth ire, but you can't denyt, from start to finish, it's Her Story. Jack and Will are part of her story, but the way the films are structured, it's pretty much undeniably her story.
(no subject) - ice_feather on 17th July 2008 21:36 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - taraljc on 17th July 2008 23:14 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wiliqueen on 17th July 2008 20:49 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ice_feather on 17th July 2008 21:39 (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
ljc: bones (pastede on yay)taraljc on 17th July 2008 20:45 (UTC)
This is so a Work In Progress...

Can you imagine if Maddie and Lynda Day were ever to meet? ThHe universe would IMPLODE.

(Spike and David would watch, with beer.)
(no subject) - kattahj on 17th July 2008 22:11 (UTC) (Expand)
Calapinecalapine on 17th July 2008 21:13 (UTC)
And before you ask, I left out Doctor Who and Torchwood on purpose. Cos if you ask me, Gwen and Rose, Martha, and Donna are all co-leads. But if you ask large chunks of fandom, they're sidekicks or love interests or both.

Classic Who's even more fun! Though I think it's pretty uncontroversial that the first year and a half had Babs and Ian as the leads, and the story at that point is def. their story, and focussing on their POV.
soren_nyrondsoren_nyrond on 18th July 2008 07:16 (UTC)
At one time or another, within the show's metaphors, Rose, Martha and Donna have been co-leads -- they have "saved the day", stood their ground without screaming and freezing on the spot, tod the Doctor where to get off, and meant it, and rejoined him, after a break-up, knowing what would be to come, but still forging ahead.

None of the classic Companions were ever love interests (except for the issue about Adric, and that was allegedly RL); they might have been sidekicks, except that they weren't being groomed to follow the hero's lead.

(Deleted comment)
ljc: lost (ruth)taraljc on 17th July 2008 23:08 (UTC)
Aeryn is indeed awesomesauce. But I still think of Farscape as John's story. That maye be skewed and inaccurate, tho.

ETA: you're right. By the end, it is so very BOTH John and Aeryn's story. I am dumb.

Alas, I know not the L&O franchise.

I think once you venture outside of action-adventure and genre telly, you actually find more scripted dramam with female leads. They're doctros and cops adn lawyers. But I tend to be a big genre fan, so I skew to SF, fantasy, espionage, and the like. And Spy-wise, it's, erm... Nikita, and Sidney Bristow, but I never watched Alias regularly past the first season.

I will say Julie Bowen in Three, tho, was absolutely a lead, and shared equal story with the boys. And Special Unit 2 is another 50-50 split, with the edge slightly on Kate being the main lead, instead of Nick, just cos we follow her into that world.

Edited at 2008-07-17 23:15 (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - taraljc on 18th July 2008 00:38 (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
mswyrrmswyrr on 17th July 2008 23:41 (UTC)
Thank you. I needed to see those lists (and add the unknown films/tv shows to my To View list!) because media androcentrism has recently been getting me DOWN.
ljc: i'm okaytaraljc on 17th July 2008 23:49 (UTC)
My reaction to "This makes me sad" tends to be "Here is what makes me happy" to counter. Sure, it won't force Hollywood to stop catering to the lowest common denominator (or their imagined mainstream audience). But it can remind folks that all is not lost, some great stories with female leads are out there in genre TV, and if nothing else, we can stockpile DVDs to show our kids and grandkids when there's nothing on telly.

I was saying in elynross's journal today that I think part of the issue is with genre, is we once had a really strong tradition of Clever Girl stories that ranked right up there with Youngest Son (to put it in really broad fairy tale archetypes). And while it's alive and well in some places (Miyazaki's and by extension Studio Ghibli's films, for example), it's fallen by the wayside in others.

So you've your Hensons and Dave McKeans (and Neil Gaimans) giving us Labyrinth and MirrorMask, and the BBC giving us Sarah Jane and Maria, it's harder to find in American mainstream media these days.
hafital: BJ:EoR -- oh craphafital on 17th July 2008 23:49 (UTC)
Sydney on Alias, female lead, totally her story from beginning to end. Just to throw in another one! *g*

I'm holding onto my sanity by a thread.

You too? lol.
hafital: DW - Donnahafital on 17th July 2008 23:52 (UTC)
Oh and Joan of Arcadia, which I never did watch but I rather love the actress. Ugly Betty? Also another TV show I don't watch.
(no subject) - taraljc on 17th July 2008 23:54 (UTC) (Expand)
rarelylynne: xenachakramrarelylynne on 18th July 2008 14:33 (UTC)
Not a Xena fan, eh?
'Cos it's got a rawkin female lead, and a rawkin chick sidekick what keeps said lead on her, erm, toes...
ljc: femmeslash?taraljc on 18th July 2008 14:37 (UTC)
I tried, but I never could fall madly in love with it. But she and Gabby so make any sane list of rocking cool female leads.
keeping it vaguely imaginary...: Ed + Tea // chochajin__kali__ on 18th July 2008 15:26 (UTC)
Oh my, I now feel old by seeing Lynda Day included in the old-shows section.
Allan Rosewarne: iconally9taras_wizard on 18th July 2008 23:30 (UTC)
I like/love most of thos characters
I like/love most of those characters, too. Not enough of them pass the Alison Bechdel test, and more of them should be able to pass that criteria.