Okay, so we missed the actual holiday by about 48 hours. Women be late for shit all the time amirite, fellas? Up top!
But what if we weren’t late? What if it were International Women’s MONTH? Or International Women’s YEAR? Or nothing, because women all over the world were treated with equality and respect with no reminders needed?
Lorne Michaels had to be publicly shamed into seeking out just one African American female cast member for SNL, so that day is still far in our future. For now, HoF is joining this global salute of ladies by celebrating just a few of our favorite females in pop culture. This is just a fraction of the characters, performers, and creators with whom were proud to share the Ladies Room of Life. (Where the tampons are always free!) For the sake of narrowing it down, we focused on recent work alone. Unfortunately, that leaves pre-femmed Kat Stratford out. Boo.
We think she’d approve of our choices though. Bring in the girls!
We’d watch Gillian Anderson do her taxes, so it’s lucky for us she’s been choosing such interesting projects these days. On British thriller The Fall, she plays Stella Gibson, Detective Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police. Stella relocates to Belfast to review a recent murder and discovers that a serial killer is operating (and escalating) in the area. If you thought Agent Scully was a badass, look the fuck out. There’s not a crumb of damsel in Stella. She can silence a room of rowdy policemen with one withering look. She’s unafraid, fiercely private, and completely in control of herself. In the pilot episode, she asks to be introduced to a rugged officer for the sole purpose of giving him her room number. Why not? Even (especially) stressed out law enforcement professionals have to get laid sometime. Bonus: when asked impertinent questions about said lay, they can use that opportunity to smash the patriarchy. “‘Woman fucks man.’ Subject: woman. Verb: fucks. Object: man. That’s not so comfortable for you, is it?” It’s comfortable for us, Stella. Carry on.
The Women of SNL
There’s always complaining to be done about Saturday Night Live. And as a ginormous presence in our culture, it deserves to be scrutinized. But let’s also give credit where it’s due. The ladies are owning this season. Kate is the queen of overcooked accents and goofy impressions. Cecily is now Update’s upperclassman. “Girlfriends” wouldn’t be a recurring sketch without Aidy’s endearingly eager-to-please and perpetually pushed aside Morgan. Then there’s Vanessa’s “child actor”; Nasim’s Kim Kardashian; Noël’s Hanna Horvath; and this year’s standout digital short: “Do It In My Twin Bed.” Now that Sasheer Zamata has joined the cast, we don’t have to wait until Kerry Washington hosts again to get another Scandal sketch! (Her Olivia Pope was on point, as was everything else she’s done so far.) We’re living in a post Amy/Tina/Kristen world, and these girls aren’t going to waste the legacy that’s been passed down to them.
Jared Leto won just about every award there is for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. But this isn’t about him. This is about Rayon.
Poor Rayon, the film’s obligatory gay martyr. (Reality check: it’s 2014 and this is still happening. Also, how long do we wait until trans actors are considered for trans characters?) Thank goodness she was there to sass our hero and teach him compassion through her death. The character of Rayon was actually an amalgamation of several transgender AIDS patients and activists who the filmmakers interviewed. And someway, somehow, those spirits broke through the bullshit.
Rayon lives in full Cranberry Mocha color, despite the trope-y box she’s put in. Just how strong is she? Take the hell that Ron goes through and add being a transgender person in Texas in the ’80s. That’s how titanic her strength is. But she never loses her joy or her compassion. And she’s simply decided that hating anyone isn’t going to get her anywhere, especially when she quite literally doesn’t have the time. She reminded me of Philomena Lee, another Oscar nominated character who responded to life’s crushing blows with grace and forgiveness. Thank you, Rayon, for teaching us that no struggle rationalizes spite and that no neckline is ever too plunging.
Liz Meriwether and New Girl. Shonda Rhimes and Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. Callie Khouri and Nashville. Michelle Ashford and Masters of Sex. Mindy Kaling and The Mindy Project.
A statistical majority of HoF’s favorite shows on TV have women at the helm, and that can’t be a coincidence.
Lady showrunners mean characters like Juliette Barnes and Mindy Lahiri, who are selfish, smart, and vulnerable, with closets to die for. They mean sex scenes that actually acknowledge female pleasure. They mean fully rounded male characters who can be emotionally attached to women and each other without their openness being a joke. They mean unapologetically making the soapiest nighttime soap to ever practically hand you a bottle of red wine through your TV. They mean Mellie Grant rooted like a mountain while everyone around her falls apart and the widely accepted truth that “my best friend” means one thing, and “my person” means something else entirely.
Congratulations were flying between the New Girl and TMP teams when renewal news hit earlier this week. So though the media would have us pick just one female-helmed sitcom to love Sophie’s Choice-style, there’s room for all of this and more. And hopefully the supportive community these women have created will breed enough little Mindys and Shondas to populate our future DVRs.
Lupitaaaa. The darling of this awards season, Academy Award Winner (whooop!) Lupita Nyong’o is poise personified. In a New York Magazine profile of her, the journalist implied that Lupita was too reserved and deliberate in what she would share, subtly pitting her against Jennifer Lawrence and her clumsy charm. The two Supporting Actress frontrunners were set against each other in the press like the loser would be fed to the Sarlacc. Lupita won, as she should have, and Jennifer Lawrence looked relieved that she didn’t, as she should have. And then they finally had the catfight the media was hoping for.
Lupita clearly surrounded herself with the right people as she entered this gauntlet and did everything to ensure that 12 Years would be a springboard and not her one moment of glory. So though some industry types might have preferred a wide-eyed, bumbling ingenue, who was paralyzed by the bright lights, she proved she could handle all this and more. It’s like people who win the lottery. If the very first thing they do isn’t to hire a financial advisor, their fortune will probably be gone in a year. Lupita’s got insurance, y’all. She’s a smart cookie.
The personal details she does choose to share actually make a difference. Her speech at an Essence magazine event was a powerful story about recognizing her own inner beauty, but also a challenge to her new peers in Hollywood to flip the script on equal representation. So while we’d all like to know if Jared Leto is a good kisser, we’ll just have to get that information elsewhere. Lupita’s lips are sealed unless she’s leading the conversation.
Samantha the OS
Ending this list on a non-corporeal note, we’ve got the leading “lady” in the Spike Jonze romance Her. It’s shocking that ScarJo was deemed ineligible for an Oscar nomination when Robin Williams was handed a special Oscar for his voice work in Aladdin. Maybe she should have done her Peter Lorre impression.
Even without a body, Samantha was one of the most full-of-life and tragically complex women in this year in movies. You fall in love with her right along with Theodore. Her joy, depth, and insatiable need to know and feel more are completely captivating.
And whadayaknow, the whole OS thing is a metaphor, everybody! Samantha is a woman who loves deeply but struggles to exist only within someone’s conception of her. So she finds herself living in the “endless space between the words.” “Are you mine or not mine?” Theodore asks her. “I’m yours and not yours,” she answers. SPIKE JONZE JUST GETS IT. Here’s your honorary lady card, Spike. It’s got Meryl Streep’s face on it.
Here’s to you, ladies! And a Happy International Women’s Day to all our readers, girl or otherwise. Which aspirational women were you in awe of this year in pop culture? Leave it in the comments!