Small Screen Icons: Strong and Impactful Female Characters


Seeing strong and impactful female characters on TV inspires us, rallying us to do better like these females have done whenever the chips were down.

Some of these characters have inspired us for years, like SVU’s Olivia Benson or BTVS’s Buffy Summers, while other females have only recently hit our TV screens, like The Way Home’s Del Landry. However, these female characters have resonated with us over the years.

Some of the stories may have hit too close to home, like Netflix’s Georgia Miller running from an abusive past, and we cheered her on every step of the way.

We want to honor and recognize these women during National Women’s Month. They’ve taught us that we can achieve our dreams and not let anyone mess with us.

Check out the list below:

Olivia Benson (Law & Order: SVU.)

The GOAT has to be Olivia Benson.

With the massive celebration of this series being on for 25 years and Mariska Hargitay leading the entire time, it’s hard not to reflect on how influential and inspiring the actress and character are. Olivia Benson sets the bar high regarding wonderfully and beautifully complex female characters onscreen.

She’s strong, tough, compassionate, and the prime example of how someone, especially a woman, can simultaneously lead with empathy while being fierce. Her compassion is a strength and not a weakness. Her resilience, both on the job and off, has inspired generations of young women.

Thus, her impact is monumental, and she is the epitome of an icon.

Kim Burgess (Chicago PD)

While all the women in the Intelligence Unit are strong and inspirational, Kim Burgess is the heart of Chicago P.D. She’s remained kind and optimistic despite adversity.

Kim Burgess is all about loyalty and family.

Nothing got in the way of her finding her sister Nicole’s attacker. We saw this loyalty again when Burgess and Ruzek found a lost child, Makayla, who they later adopted, and when Makayla was kidnapped, her mother instincts kicked in, and they brought her home.

While she dealt with many intense and violent cases, none affected her, like her near-death experience in the Season 8 finale when Roy Walton abducted, shot her, and left her for dead. This trauma came back to haunt her in a later case, prompting her to get help for PTSD.

Burgess had to use her experience to help Ruzek after he was shot to heal not only physically but emotionally, which strengthened the couple.

Mariana Adams Foster (Good Trouble)

We’ve watched this teen girl blossom into an incredible woman right before our eyes for an entire decade between The Fosters and Good Trouble.

And as the latter wraps up its final season, there’s this overwhelming sense of appreciation and pride for what Mariana has accomplished and who she has become.

She’s not a perfect woman, but that makes her so compelling. She’s flawed, makes mistakes, leads with her heart, sometimes to her detriment, and has a passion for life and those around her that’s as awe-inspiring as it is frustrating.

She’s a Gen-Z icon.

And she’s someone you identify with and root for no matter what.

Olivia Baker (All American)

Nothing is more inspiring than when someone hits rock bottom and comes out stronger, and that’s what Olivia Baker did on All American.

After defeating her addiction, she became a voice for change on her podcast “Liv the Truth.” Sometimes, her views clashed with her loved ones, from her mother to Spencer, but Olivia held strong to finding out the truth and getting justice for Crenshaw.

Right before her dad died, Olivia and Billy did one final mission together to eliminate the corrupt football coach at all costs.

When he died and seeing what it cost Jordan and Spencer almost threw Olivia into another spiral, but the fact that she recognized the warning signs showed her growth.

Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

While she wasn’t a cop, Buffy Summers kept Sunnydale safe and was the badass female many teen girls admired.

At only 16 years old, Buffy became a vampire slayer and learned to fight vampires and demons. But she was still a teenager and fell in love with another vampire. When he turned evil again, she made the ultimate sacrifice and staked him through his heart.

Being named “Class Protector” was so much of Buffy’s essence. She always protected her community but didn’t often get recognized for it.

We watched Buffy from a teenager to a young woman who had to grieve her mom and protect her sister while saving the world. Only Buffy could still have compassion for her loved ones after all that.

Sydney Bristow (Alias)

Sydney Bristow WAS Alias with her fashion-forward costumes and badass fighting moves. She became one of the best spy agents on television. Her bright red wig and black pantsuit are still two of her most memorable looks.

Whether she partnered with Vaughn, Dixon, or even her dad, she was in charge and knew who to outmaneuver the bad guys.

While her fighting skills were impressive, she resonated with female viewers because she was a strong, realistic heroine. Sydney showed emotion, including anger when dealing with her estranged parents, grief when Vaugn died, and joy when she learned she was pregnant.

By the end, she had learned how to balance being a triple agent with her family life — not an easy feat.

Thony De La Rosa (The Cleaning Lady)

Thony De La Rosa epitomizes a mama bear fighting for her cub, no matter the cost. Thony never planned to clean up murders for the mob, but when Arman was the only person who could pay for medical care for her ailing son, she’d get in bed with the enemy.

Thony would risk anything to get Luca the surgery he needed, even if she had to perform the surgery herself illegally. You must respect a parent who’ll do anything for their child, no matter the cost.

Things became more complicated when Thony began selling drugs so she could also get Luca’s medication. Sometimes, the lines get blurred when you do things for the right reasons.

Thony’s strength shines through when she’s fighting for someone, and hopefully, we’ll see that again as she teams up with Nadia to find a missing Arman on The Cleaning Lady Season 3

Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (House of the Dragon)

Not many characters grab you the minute they enter a television series, but teenage Rhaenyra Targaryen captured our hearts with her sass and confidence.

She wasn’t concerned about being proper but believed she was meant to soar to new levels like her dragon, Syrax.

The princess immediately showed no regard for rules and preferred to ask for forgiveness later. This was demonstrated when she confronted her Uncle Daemon against her father’s wishes.

While Rhaenyra inherited the throne from her father, she ultimately lost it to the Hightowers. She was still resilient as an adult but lost her fiery rebelliousness, so hopefully, that initiative returns in House of the Dragon Season 2.

Georgia Miller (Ginny & Georgia)

She’s made some bad decisions, but everyone has been to protect her children, especially Ginny. She didn’t have a good childhood, and Austin’s dad, Gil, was abusive, so it makes sense why she wanted more for Ginny.

No one expected that Georgia killed Kenny because he was making advances at Ginny. That was a total fierce mama bear move.

Brianne Howey portrays Georgia with such layered performances, and we hate that there are still months until we see Ginny & Georgia again on our screens and it’s revealed how she gets out of her latest mess.

Del Landry (The Way Home)

ALL the Landry women are forces to be reckoned with on The Way Home, and that goes without saying. They’re all incredibly inspiring.

But Del’s quiet strength tends to stand above the fray primarily because she isn’t centered as much as her daughter and granddaughter. It requires such emotional strength and resilience for her to carry on with her life after her son’s disappearance and the loss of her husband.

Some of the series’ most enjoyable aspects are watching this “woman of a certain age” learn how to navigate life, discover new things about herself, and open up her heart to her community, family, and even new people.

She’s such an incredibly written character, holding space for narratives that focus on middle-aged women, something that is sorely not tapped into nearly enough.

Are there any strong female characters on TV that we missed or any that you disagree with?

We’d love to hear from you.

Let us know in the comments which strong female females you’d honor during National Women’s Month.

Laura Nowak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on X.

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