Summer has just begun which means longer days, warmer nights and all new shows to watch on television. Of course, we want to spend as much time as possible soaking up the sun and making the most out of summer break (or the time we have in between our busy schedules), but we all love getting wrapped up in a good story with captivating visuals to match.
A trend I've noticed in many of the new shows this summer is that not only are a lot of the protagonists female, but they aren't these perfect "manic pixie dream girls" a lot of older shows have perpetuated. I think there's a certain kind of allure to flawed protagonists and anti-heroes- we tend to see more of ourselves portrayed in these less than perfect characters than in flawless ones who we end up envying.
Whether you watch the shows on this list or not, there's a flawed female protagonist out there for everyone.
1. For the college student in need of a reality check (or knows someone who could use one): "Grownish" (season 2B)
In the events leading up to a cliffhanger(ish) mid-season finale, Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) makes a series of poor choices (meaningless pettiness towards her bf when he doesn't want to be as "extra" as she is, openly cheating on her chem final partying the night before, etc.) that ultimately leads to her father "cutting her off," which is middle-upper-middle to rich people speak for 'I'm no longer giving you credit cards, go get a job and be a real adult." Zoey is far from the perfect favorite daughter she was portrayed as in the show's predecessor, "Blackish." I was honestly finding her to be a little insufferable as she pretty much acts like a modern-day Hilary Banks, with slightly more cleverness.
But this change that seems "drastic" in her cushiony suburban lifestyle will hopefully add some much-needed character development and depth to her otherwise shallow character. The potential of Zoey's storylines giving her some more development isn't the only thing keeping my interest in the show. I hope to see some of the dramatic issues revisited in a way that this show does well: open and honest conversations amongst the members of Zoey's friend group. I also am intrigued by Nomi's (Emily Arlook) storyline, as she pursues a relationship with her (now former) professor... spicy!
2. For the "woke" millennial/gen z'er who is more than meets the eye: "Good Trouble" (Season two)
Even though I haven't seen its predecessor, "Good Trouble" has definitely proven to be "TV's first good Gen Z drama." It has multiple characters all with captivating and distinct storylines yet, they are all introduced in ways that intersect into one another in a way that makes sense. Truly an art-form of storytelling that I find difficult to employ in my own writing, but this show has surely given me some inspiration. The two protagonists are foster sisters, both struggling to thrive in their respective careers. Mariana is an engineer at a huge tech company in which misogyny and racial/gender inequality are as present as day and Callie is liberal lawyer clerking for a conservative judge during a highly controversial case regarding police brutality.
While trying to juggle their careers, they battle personal struggles and so do the dynamic characters around them. Season one has already packed a punch with the emotion-filled plot lines of some of the characters such as Malika, an outspoken Black Lives Matter activist battling her her own struggles with trying to forgive her drug-addicted mother and Dennis, a seemingly creepy older man who dates younger women but has a story that humanizes him more than any other character. The best thing about all of these characters is that they are all far from perfect, protagonists included. Its diverse, and inclusive cast is one of the best representation of our two main current generations today; that we even though we aren't perfect, we are trying our best.
3. For the teen who thinks drug use is edgy: "Euphoria"
As the first (and only) completely newest show on this list, what a better way to attract an audience than having Zendaya as the starring role? If you loved her slightly moody and mysterious demeanor in the latest Spiderman movies as MJ (Mary Jane), then you'll find her role as Rue, a drug-addicted 17-year-old a few levels up from that. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started this series I just knew I love Zendaya and anything she's in is worth watching (maybe except KC undercover but we all start somewhere).
After watching it, I realized that this is some REALLY heavy stuff. Not only is drug use is front and center, but so is sexual abuse, self-harm, mental illness and just every issue you could put onto a teen in this society... at least one of the characters in this show has it. I personally do not find their narratives relateable, but maybe someone does, and it's great that someone can find that representation on television. However, I do wonder if the show romanticizes drug use a little too much. I mean, you can clearly tell how miserable Rue is. She has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, her father died recently, and she has no intentions of stopping her destructive path, as the feeling of high is the one thing that keeps her going back. But will the negative effects of her short high be used as future plot points or will it rely on Rue's drug use to fuel the series? I guess we'll have to watch and find out.
4. For a badass female anti-hero who we deserve and need: "Jessica Jones" (Season three, THE LAST ONE)
First and foremost, "JESSICA JONES" IS THE BEST MARVEL SHOW OUT THERE. PERIOD. I haven't seen all of the Marvel shows, but I've seen enough to put Jessica Jones on top. Jessica has been a flawed yet a very captivating character from season one. She had to battle crippling PTSD due to trauma from her past (physical, emotional, sexual, you name it), then in season two, she battles her inner and outer demons in the form of her hell-ish mother. Now her heroism is put to the test one last time as she deals with a villain who for some reason is doing everything in his power to prove that she isn't and never will be a hero. As an added flawed female character bonus, her best friend and adoptive sister, Trish now has superpowers and can finally be the hero she's always wanted to be. This doesn't sit well with Jessica who just wanted to keep Trish as far away from her "heroic" life as possible. I haven't started the season as yet but I know I'm in for a wild ride. Jessica doesn't have to be conventionally good to be a hero. She's a hero because we can relate to her- her struggle becomes ours in some form or fashion and the most we want for her is for her to accept and love herself despite her past.