• Jasmin Watts

Netflix's Top 5 Female Led Series to Binge

Updated: a day ago

Television has come a long way from the early days of women being portrayed as simply the damsel in distress, the love interest of the male protagonist, or the stay at home mother. Now our screens are graced with strong, complex, great female characters and leads that truly represent the female experience in the 21st century. Netflix is a particularly progressive platform that often features compelling and layered female characters. Rather than being just a pretty face, these women are shown as realistic, flawed, and vulnerable characters who have their own unique personalities, problems, successes, and failures.

With level 5 locking us inside and so many shows capturing our attention, here are 5 female-led shows you can binge on Netflix right now and will be to sure to inspire you.

1. Unbelievable

Inspired by a true story, this 8 episode limited series premiered on Netflix in 2019. Marie Adler (portrayed by Kaitlyn Dever) reports her sexual assault to local police but then retracts her statement after being doubted by law enforcement and those around her. Toni Colette and Merritt Wever fearlessly portray detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall, who work night and day to connect the dots in various rape cases to bring the attacker to justice.

Heartbreaking and powerful, Unbelievable shies away from the all too familiar true-crime tropes by shifting the narrative to the survivors of abuse by telling their stories with grace and gravity. A show that deals with the trauma of rape, the precariousness of sex-crime investigations, and the miscarriages of justice is a gripping watch and will have you rooting for the victims and the detectives from start to finish.

Merritt Wever, left, and Toni Collette in Unbelievable. Photo: Netflix.

2. The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen's Gambit is a Netflix original 7 episode drama series that follows the life of an orphan and child prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), on a quest to become the world's greatest chess player. The story begins in the mid-1950s and proceeds into the 1960s. As Beth succeeds in a male-dominated world, she struggles with emotional issues from her childhood trauma and a severe drug and alcohol dependency. Beth’s experiences as an addict and a woman in the world of chess seem to be new ground for television and make for emotional viewing.

Unlike the main idea of other feminist shows and films, the central theme of having a strong female lead is not solely purposeful for crushing the patriarchy. The Queen’s Gambit has an authentic portrayal of the female experience, and in that authenticity of portrayal, feminism simply exists and is not forced upon the viewer. Beth Harmon is determined, fearless, flawed, and smart.

If you want to read more about The Queen's Gambit and it’s impactful themes, we love this New York Times article on how this show sparked a new debate on sexism in chess, which you can read here.

Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon. Photo: Netflix.

3. American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson reimagines the infamous case of the OJ Simpson murder case and follows the layers on both sides of the explosive courtroom. State prosecutor Marcia Clark’s role in the notorious case is executed flawlessly by Sarah Paulson. This 10 episode series is a solid production that realistically forms the racism, sexism, police corruption, and celebrity obsession of the mid-90s attitudes in America. While not only dealing with the fraught nature of racial politics, we see the ongoing struggle of Marcia Clark to be treated fairly in a courtroom dominated by men.

The show highlights the extreme misogyny that played a major role in the courtroom and Sarah Paulson gives an unmissable performance in bringing Clark’s real-life heartbreak to our screens. She showcases the complex nature of what Clark went through as a working mother, in a male-dominated industry under intense media scrutiny. The People v. O.J. Simpson is a surreal, fascinating look at the “Trial of the (last) Century” and certainly raises some popular questions about gender, politics, and race.

To read more about Marcia Clark and her experience working on the OJ case in her own words you may be interested in the interview she did with TIME magazine in 2016 which you can read here.

Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson. Photo: Netflix

4. How To Get Away With Murder

Created by Shona Rhimes, six seasons of How To Get Away With Murder that just recently landed on Netflix will still have you wanting more. The brilliant and charismatic Professor Annalise Keating, portrayed by Oscar-nominated actress, Viola Davis, gets entangled with four law students from her class and what ensues is a suspense-driven series of events. Of all the shows created by Shonda Rhimes (think Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal) How To Get Away With Murder is definitely the darkest. Though all lead women in these shows are very strong, Annalise Keating is in a league of her own. She is complicated, important, confident, and intelligent.

How To Get Away With Murder not only addresses the issues of race and gender in work but highlights everything from inappropriate sexual encounters to interracial relationships. The show is a must-watch for its sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat content and the important themes raised through powerful writing.

Annalise Keating portrayed by Viola Davis in How To Get Away With Murder. Photo: Eric McCandles/ABC.

5. The Crown

A Netflix original fan favourite, there has never been a better time to catch up on Seasons 1-3 with the all anticipated Season 4 premiering this Sunday, 15th November 2020. This lavish dramatization relays the life of Queen Elizabeth II from the 1940s to modern times. The early series’ gives an inside look at the early reign of the queen, who ascended the throne at age 25 after the death of her father, King George VI. As the decades' pass, personal struggles, secret romances, and political feuds are revealed that played a big role in events that shaped the later years of the 20th century.

Season 4 of this Netflix series not only features main character Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) but welcomes Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) and Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) to the cast. This trinity of powerful women is setting us up for a gripping season of female empowerment and we can’t wait to see how it plays out across our screens.

If you would like to read more about the portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II on screen read our new post here.

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II in Season 3 of The Crown. Photo: Netflix.

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