SANDRA OH, JODIE WHITTAKER AND THE OTHER FEMALE PROTAGONISTS WHO MADE 2018 A GREART YEAR FOR TV

These female-led stories have been hits with audiences, critics and awards voters. Their representation is not tokenism; it’s good storytelling. And it’s making TV better.

Sandra Oh, who laboured in ‘best friend’ and supporting roles, most famously on Grey’s Anatomy, stepped into the well-deserved spotlight in Killing Eve and garnered the first-ever Emmy nomination for a woman of Asian descent as the lead drama actress. (Nick Briggs / AP)

In 2018, characters on television killed. They healed. They conjured things out of mid-air. They travelled through time and space and practised the dark arts. They sang and danced. They loved and lusted. And many just happened to be women.

We are currently in the midst of a massive glut of television programming, often referred to as “Peak TV,” which in 2018 alone counted nearly 500 scripted shows that aired on networks and streaming services. This means more good television, more bad television and an awful lot of mediocre television. And in a likely unintentional — if long overdue — side effect, it also generated more television stories focused on women. And in 2018, that started to feel natural rather than extraordinary.

That’s not to say that women haven’t been on TV before. Great shows about women range from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Grey’s Anatomy. But, for a long time, they were the exception not the rule. For the most part, the roles actresses could play and the stories writers wrote for female characters were limited. They were often wives, girlfriends, flirtatious co-workers. They died a lot. They were judged and hated. If they were more than a stereotype, they got slapped with the reductive label “Strong Female Character.”

This year, not just a few but many shows were led by female protagonists. These female-led stories have been hits with audiences, critics and awards voters. Their representation is not tokenism; it’s good storytelling. And it’s making TV better.

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