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October 4, 2015

TV 101: Memorable TV Women in the Making

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Mar 9th 2011 3:30PM
Lisa SimpsonI'm not one of these guys who, upon hearing that it's Women's History Month, complains to his bros and random passers-by that there's no Men's History Month. And while typically the first thing that comes out of a guy's mouth after he says "Listen, I love women," is the most misogynistic thing you'll hear all day, I'm here to tell you that's not always the case.

Listen, I love women, and I owe a great debt to the TV women of my childhood for helping to make me the person I am today. See? I told you it could be done. But I'm here not to herald the women of television -- that has been sufficiently and wonderfully covered by TV Squad staff already in our Top 100 Female TV Characters list -- but to acknowledge the daughters of those great women. The young TV women influenced and molded by TV's greatest women. Women!

With television and film cashing in on recycling shows and films and ideas, a thought came to mind that could work for a lot of the characters and actresses listed here. I'm talking about spinoffs, 20 years later: Kelly Bundy in the 2011 version of 'Married With Children,' which would probably involve lots of C-section jokes; Meadow Soprano in her own law drama as she searches for the man who killed her father; or even Punky Brewster in a gritty drama about an overweight, twice divorced stripper taken in by a fast food mogul to test new and highly experimental taco recipes.

So as you peruse this list, think about what kind of show each woman in the making might be perfect for today. Remember, we're not talking about just bringing the actor back, that's been done to death by Alyssa Milano alone. We're talking about these iconic girls becoming iconic women.

Lisa Simpson, 'The Simpsons' | Voiced by Yeardley Smith
It's kind of shocking that there has yet to be a 'Simpsons' spin-off -- unless you're one of those people who counts 'Futurama' -- but of the plethora of characters the show has paraded out over the years, Lisa might be the best of all of them. Although she doesn't age, making it tough for her to become an iconic woman, her femininity and unrelenting smarts and principles are something to be admired and often go unnoticed alongside the antics of her male counterparts.

Kelly BundyKelly Bundy, 'Married With Children' | Played by Christina Applegate
On the surface, Kelly didn't offer much inspiration. If you look deeper, however, you'll find a young woman struggling to find her identity against the horrible odds her parents laid out for her. This is why a present-day Kelly Bundy show would be so interesting. Did she make it out alive, working through all her family disadvantages without getting pregnant, or did she end up like her mother, dropping cigarette butts into the mashed potatoes?

Samantha Micelli, 'Who's the Boss?' | Played by Alyssa Milano
Let me just say, it was a joy watching Samantha blossom into a woman. On a show that confronted our culture's rigid gender roles head on, she was doing so from a kid's perspective. The rough-and-tumble tomboy opposite the twinkle-toed brainiac boy, she made us question what it means to be a girl and she maintained some of those ideals as she became, quite decidedly, a woman. Give her a show now to see how all that played out, and to give Tony Danza some much needed work.

Denise HuxtableDenise Huxtable, 'The Cosby Show' | Played by Lisa Bonet
Has there ever been a character more shrouded in exotic mystery and allure than Denise? Her strength was always going against the straight-laced grain of the Huxtable clan, and being her own person, a fact that should have led to a lot more lesbian experimentation on her spin-off, 'A Different World' with the likes of Marisa Tomei (Maggie), Jasmine Guy (Whitley), Cree Summer (Freddie), Jada Pinkett Smith (Lena) and Sinbad (Walter).

Meadow Soprano, 'The Sopranos' | Played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler
I would argue that Meadow would be, if she isn't already, a more important female character than her mother. Carmela, whether knowingly or not, fit into almost every female stereotype of subjugation and subservience. Sure, she had her flare-ups, and was one of the strongest women in TV history in spite of that, but Meadow -- and this could also be a generational shift -- refused to accept those roles, often challenging her mother to do the same. Meadow seems a perfect fit for a TNT sexy lawyer vehicle, like 'The Closer' or 'Damages.'

Maeby Funke, 'Arrested Development' | Played by Alia Shawkat
Maeby made so much of herself with so little parental guidance or involvement that we almost deserve to know what she's doing right now. Neglected kids, especially girls, can either use that neglect as an excuse for their troubles or as a reason to overcome them. I think Maeby, fully aware of her parents obnoxious stupidity, would have prospered. She did have a burgeoning career as a movie producer right under their noses. I wish we could see the show where she marries George Michael, just to see what their kids will look like.

Saved by the bellKelly Kapowski, Jesse Spano and Lisa Turtle, 'Saved by the Bell' | Played by Tiffani Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley and Lark Voorhies
As high school girls, these three represented very distinct notions of femininity, and I don't see why that wouldn't continue into womanhood. As unrealistic and bubble-gum as the world they inhabited was, they each brought some shred of female credibility to Saturday mornings and an audience that could have had far worse role models, but how awesome would a "Real Housewives of Bayside" be right about now?

Topanga Lawrence, 'Boy Meets World' | Played by Danielle Fishel
Topanga had the unenviable chore of mitigating the unbridled sexual tension that was rippling between Cory and Shawn. Often a pawn in their game, Topanga was steadfast in her beliefs and always seemed to be the voice of reason, even though she knew she would always be second fiddle. This would not stop her from being their spinster next door neighbor after Cory and Shawn are married on their new Bravo sitcom.

How would you like to see your favorite female characters come back?

Dr. Vaughan teaches English/media/humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and he goes caroling in the summer. You can also check out his blog or find him on Facebook.

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Zhenghho Zheng


March 10 2011 at 4:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Zhenghho Zheng

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March 10 2011 at 4:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Clare Fisher from Six Feet Under - she was my favorite character because she was smart, talented, and largely ignored due to the way her mom doted on David and Nate. I think every young girl can relate to her rights with her mother. Even though we know how it all ends due to that spectacular season finale, it would be cool to find out what her life was like in the years between.

Angela Chase from My So Called Life - this show deserved more than 1 season. Beyond the immediate question - which boy did she ultimately end up with, I would love to know how things played out for her for the rest of high school. Also her little sister (Danielle, I think?), Rayanne, and Ricki---I wish we knew more about what happened with them.

March 09 2011 at 6:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sareeta's comment
Ryan Vaughan

Claire is a solid pick. Well played.

March 10 2011 at 9:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Would Sally Draper Qualify? Or is she too much of a potential train wreck?

March 09 2011 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Brandon's comment
Ryan Vaughan

Trainwrecks welcome.

March 10 2011 at 9:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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