Likable Female TV Heroes Still Have To Be Hot (Male Ones Don’t)

This doesn’t seem fair, because it seems to imply that the end goal for women in terms of a character being admirable is just “a bunch of men will lust/love you,” whereas the end goal for men is “saving the country/civilizing the world.” Or at least, making people around them slightly smarter.

All of it seems to fall back to that old joke that goes: what do you need to make a movie for men? A horse and a gun. What do you need to make a movie for women? A man.

The message seems to be that a woman can have any other quality she wants and that’s great – but she also needs to be pretty to be heroic. Which, this is just not true. For reference, I am going to present a picture of beautiful on the inside Mother Teresa:

And I would like to remind you that if there is a TV show version of her life, she will be played by Sophia Loren.

This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing – I’d rather have female characters that were smart and hot and competent than characters who were just hot and incompetent – but I do wish we could get a female version Ned Stark who didn’t look OMG JAW DROPPINGLY AWESOME in thigh high boots.

But! It’s possible that I am just not watching TV all the time. Can you think of any examples of characters who are admirable women who aren’t pretty? I feel like I must surely be missing something, here.


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    • Lo

      Since you mention Game Of Thrones, I’m going to bring up Brienne. The plot is full of jerks who mock her appearance and then really wish they hadn’t. Brienne herself has various issues, but a strong sense of honour and loyalty, so she goes on the list.

    • Diana

      Ok, not to be all persnickety, but it’s RIPLEY, not Riley. She was and always will be who I want to be when I grow up.
      I think you have a point, though in that female leads are hot and usually very inappropriately dressed. I come from a cop family and I’ve never seen female officers wear some of the outfits that TV police wear. And Why did Buffy go patrolling in tight dresses or skirts? Pants and sensible tops are your friends, TV women!
      And, just for the sake of argument: Ned Stark isn’t hot? What have you been smoking? Sean Bean is ALWAYS hot.

    • Jamie Peck

      I think Ned Stark is pretty hot.
      Also, Hannah’s weight is not a character flaw! People need to stop equating weight with any kind of moral anything. None of the other characters have their shit together either, but they just happen to be thin and perfect. This is part of Hannah realizing life is unfair, IMO.
      That said, this is a hard conversation to have because not everyone agrees on what constitutes “pretty” and “ugly.” But I can’t think of anyone I don’t think is pretty who plays a female protagonist on TV. I will throw in for Brienne, but she’s not a main character.

      • jocelyn

        THIS. perfect. thank you.

    • Renee

      I think this question is salient if off topic: Why would anyone want to be, claim to be, Don Quixote?

    • endn

      Oh lord I love this show too. So out of control. Love every actor. However, Sigourney may have a history of being considered attractive, but not in a traditional way– she’s always been more of an amazon, you know, badass, dian fossey instead of jane goodall. plus the woman is over 60 and she looks it, she does not have a thin body, she has wrinkles… but she’s very graceful and confident and the men hitting on her are younger and hot and I freaking LOVE that. I think sigourney is great because she’s not unrealistically attractive and she has that badass persona that she’s more remembered for than her looks.

    • Brian

      Ah yes, “As the West Wing Turns.” Wonderful cast, not sold on the writing at all.

    • Andrea

      I basically agree with you, there are few exceptions. I would say Nurse Jackie is not your typical hottie, both because her looks are not conventional and she’s older. Cathy from The C Word is conventionally hot but older which is almost just as bad. Gabourney Sidibe starred in a movie and defied almost every convention of beauty. And Sigourney is an improvement from Geena Davis’ character as president. Weaver is going to be a stand out among any normal 60 something year old woman, but she clearly is older and thus not a typical sex symbol. BUT I agree we have a ton of work to do here.

    • C

      I completely agree! I hate how the “strong”, “tough” women on TV always seem to be portrayed by insanely attractive actors that wear super tight mini-dresses and six-inch heels. That’s one of the reasons why I like Game of Thrones, the women look normal, pretty but normal. They’re all attractive in a I-don’t-do-meth-and-have-a-professional-do-my-makeup way. However, the male characters are, for the most part, unrealistically hot. And that includes Ned Stark! Ha.

      • C

        I got it! Okay. Theon Greyjoy’s sister. She’s a complete badass and isn’t conventionally pretty or sexy. You look at her and think, “hey, that’s a person” not “hey, that’s a woman”.

    • jeli

      Watch BBC TV shows, it’s not all about looks. Sure they often go for pretty, but it doesn’t all hinge on that.