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Feminist and TV Lover? The Two Can Peacefully Co-Exist!

September 21, 2010

FACT:  There are countless television shows that can make you as a feminist want to shrivel up and die.

FACT THE SECOND: There are several options even on network TV that will make you feel less guilty about your guilty pleasure, many of which premiere this week.

Don’t believe us? Check out the following five options, which will break neither your bank account nor your feminist heart:

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- If you were counting down  to Glee’s return tonight but feel your spidey senses tingling whenever you see Mr. Schue giving yet another crazy woman patronizing advice, try Community. This ensemble show also had its first season last year, and followed its community college study group from Halloween parties to debate tournaments to campus-wide paintball matches that read more Apocalypse Now than sitcom. The diversity of the cast also makes for an interesting dynamic, especially as Community’s stellar actors and sharp writers make sure that characters that could easily be simple stereotypes gain necessary depth. The show, to its credit, does not pretend it exists in a post-racial vacuum; the Christmas episode, for example, highlighted the fact that each cast member identifies with a different religion, and the episode followed their struggles to coexist as peacefully as they did before they knew each other’s religious inclinations. Its female characters are flawed, hilarious and warm all at once—a welcome combination. Community premieres Thursday, September 23 at 8 pm on NBC.

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- If you ‘re mourning the end of True Blood but won’t miss Sookie, try The Vampire Diaries. Really. The concept of Vampire Diaries is nothing new – girl falls in love with vampire, whole world turns upside-down, is the object of intrigue for most supernatural being around – but there’s one part of the typical vampire drama equation that has been changed. The role of Girl in Love goes to Elena, a high school girl who gets a crush on the Mysterious New Boy, but she doesn’t lose all her senses once she finds out he’s a vampire; in fact, she freaks out, puts her family and friends first, and tells him she can’t see him again until she knows she can trust him. She’s a high school girl in love, of course, but Elena surprises again and again with her mettle and strength. She even has enough personality so that you might understand why her vampire boyfriend and his evil brother would fight over her, which in the face of True Blood’s problematic Sookie and Twilight’s blank Bella is seriously refreshing. Supporting players and best friends Caroline and Bonnie are resilient and complex. The Vampire Diaries is on the CW, Thursdays at 8 pm.

[caption id="attachment_10174" align="alignleft" width="202" caption="Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope"]leslieknope[/caption]

- If you love Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon of 30 Rock but are increasingly annoyed by her desperate single antics, give Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation a chance. Leslie is also a subordinate of a cantankerous male mentor, but the respect she and Ron have for each other is emphasized in every episode. She is the most valuable player of her Indiana Parks and Recreation department, a fact she takes pride in. She even often refers to her goal of becoming a powerful woman like her idol Madeline Albright, and uses it to propel herself forward in both her career and her personal life. Yes, that’s right—Leslie Knope is a feminist. Even better, the show highlights her feminism, and counts it as one of her best attributes. NBC has made the dubious choice to push Parks and Recreation to midseason to make room for its freshman comedy Outsourced (what? exactly), but make a point of watching Parks and Rec’s stellar second season if you can in the meantime.

[caption id="attachment_10175" align="alignright" width="159" caption="Julianna Marguiles in "The Good Wife""]goodwife[/caption]

- If you’re tired of watching women return to cheating husbands without consequence, dive into The Good Wife. The series follows a woman whose prominent politician husband’s sexual affairs and mishandling of state money become public, shattering her life. As the New York Times initial review said, the show “begins where sex scandals usually end,” focusing on the impact such an affair has on the politician’s partner and family. The Good Wife’s Alicia has been identified numerous times over the past year as a fascinating, strong female character, especially as she pursues her own goals and career aspirations in law independent of her husband’s political sphere. The Good Wife premieres Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 10 pm.

WILD CARDS (have yet to premiere/just premiered):

  • Nikita (CW, Thursdays at 9 pm): This high-stakes series starring Asian-American Maggie Q could either be an awesome, female-driven 24, or it could play into its problematic “Looks Do Kill” ad campaign and focus solely on her hot spy bod. Time will tell.
  • Undercovers (premieres Wednesday September 22, 8 pm): This drama following a retired spy couple could be a watered-down Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but it has the distinction of being basically the only primetime network show that stars two people of color. It also comes from the mind of Lost and Alias creator J.J. Abrams, so at the very least, it should be deliciously twisted.

Caveat: none of those shows are perfect, especially when it comes to ethnic diversity (an area sorely neglected in television and film alike). But better than The Hills? You better believe it.

What did we miss? Tell us in the comments below!