Women’s History Month: 5 Iconic, Badass, Female TV Characters Who Deserved Better
Kendra! Cristina! Sophia! To all the TV ladies who were way too underrated
BY JENNIFER HAKIM
"Despite 10 seasons with her, I would have loved to see more of Dr. Cristina Yang, perhaps a Yang’s Anatomy series, but maybe I’m just being greedy."
BY JENNIFER HAKIM
11 March 2022
It’s Women’s History Month, and with it its lot of appreciation posts for the women who shaped us, so here’s to all the iconic, yet unappreciated, badass female characters on TV, from marginalised identities. They deserved better, but opened the door to even more iconic ladies. Here are five I’ll never forget.
1. Kendra Young in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Kendra Young, played by Bianca Lawson, was the *other* slayer on ‘90s teen fantasy drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I watched religiously every Saturday night. The Jamaican teen appeared after Buffy Summers' temporary death, and offered a completely different side of the slayer life right off the bat. Dedicated to her calling, with impressive textbook knowledge and extraordinary technical skills, Kendra was kind of introduced as the ‘boring’ slayer, while she might actually have been the G.O.A.T. Her unfamiliarity with basic Californian slang and her tight relationship with ‘Mr. Pointy’ (her lucky stake) were extremely endearing, while her superpowers (that endurance, hello) were truly unappreciated. Definitely gone too soon.
2. Tara Thornton in True Blood
Portrayed by American actress Rutina Wesley, Tara Thornton was a major character on 6 seasons of the HBO original series True Blood, but way too underrated. Pretty much the smartest person in Bon Temps, Tara had an abusive background, an alcoholic mother who she tried to help relentlessly, and while she may have been cynical at times, she just called it like it was. In the very first episode, her character was introduced with that iconic line: “I have a name. And that name is Tara. Isn't that funny a Black girl being named after a plantation? No, I don't think it's funny at all. In fact it really pisses me off that my momma was either stupid or just plain mean.” She had a reputation for being ‘confrontational’ or ‘problematic’, a very real stereotype for Black women on and off screen, while she was actually funny, resourceful, and a great character reader. Tara knew boundaries and set them for herself, and when she (spoiler alert) turned into a vampire, she finally had an opportunity to become something else than Sookie Stackhouse's best friend, but the storyline ultimately failed her.
3. Dr. Kerry Weaver in ER
Dr. Kerry Weaver, played by Laura Innes, low-key gave us free medical school lessons when she blurted out “it's not a good idea to shock a patient who's wide-awake”, but she’s awesome for many other reasons. A recurring character in the ‘90s US TV medical drama ER, Weaver was quite an unconventional character. She had a mysterious limp in her gait, later on revealed as congenital hip dysplasia, walked with a crutch and bossed the whole ER around with fierce confidence. Often labelled as a villain, she was anything but. She prioritised herself and her career, and came out as a lesbian at a time when such things were usually hushed on primetime TV. She was misunderstood, yet not forgotten.
4. Dr. Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy
Another iconic TV doctor alert. Years after Weaver, Dr. Cristina Yang entered the medical drama scene and showed us once again that you could be a badass, career-focused, competitive lady, and unapologetic about it. Played by Sandra Oh, the first Asian actress to win two Golden Globes and be nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Yang truly ruled the school during her time on Grey’s Anatomy. Not only was she a genius surgeon who could literally perform complex surgeries in the dark, she was also a loyal friend and lover, introducing us to the idea that your bestie could be your ‘person’. I’m still crying over her last words to Meredith on the show: "He's very dreamy, but he's not the sun, you are." Despite 10 seasons with her, I would have loved to see more of Dr. Cristina Yang, perhaps a Yang’s Anatomy series, but maybe I’m just being greedy.
5. Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black
Portrayed by Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox, Sophia Burset is the iconic Litchfield Penitentiary inmate and hair stylist in Orange Is the New Black. A transgender woman dealing with transphobia in and out of prison, with a complicated relationship with her family, Sophia charmed us all with her cool temperament, kindness and general upbeat personality. While she was resilient, she still went through too much on the show, and could have benefited from more screen time. Perhaps more joy in this historic moment of trans representation on TV. We still owe her some pretty unforgettable lines on love (“Pain, horrible pain that you want again and again”), prison ("Human beings can't live like this"), and hair (“I'm looking forward now, and you and your hair should do the same"). Legendary behaviour.