Maybe you’re on vacation facing an all-day rain, or you’re laid up with a summer cold, or you simply want to escape the maddening crowd to binge video, but you face too many choices. How to settle on a video that won’t have you restless ten minutes in?
To help you I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite videos featuring strong female leads.
If you haven’t seen Hulu’s rendition of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian bestseller, A Handmaid’s Tale, make it a video priority. It’s the best online series I’ve ever seen.
Several of my friends want to award me a medal for watching all 12 episodes, insisting that it’s too chilling and misogynist for them. If you ease into it and watch it in installments, you won’t be freaked out, and you’ll be rewarded with an incredible script and stellar acting by the female leads. Elizabeth Moss who plays Ofred, the protagonist, delivers a memorable performance. Without giving the plot away I can assure you that Ofred finds her moral compass in this first season’s finale.
I love the Netflix international TV series for the more realistic depictions of women than are generally seen in US series. I’m a fan of the crime genre. I was held captive by Case, an Icelandic series with suspenseful plot twists.
The female lead (Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir) is the most unglamorous detective I’ve ever seen on film. She wears no makeup; her hair looks uncombed and I counted just one wardrobe change, where she substituted a drab gray sweater for a denim shirt. Her simple appearance makes her no-nonsense character all the more credible. Warning: Case can be graphic, but when that happens I look away or zoom forward.
Another International crime series with a realistic female lead is Dicte, a Danish series starring Iben Hjejle as crime reporter Dicte Svendsen, who is newly divorced with an adolescent daughter. The tender mother-daughter exchanges offer a nice counter balance to Dicte’s nail-biting investigations.
If you’re in the mood for a BBC period drama, try The Crimson Field (Amazon Prime), a WWI saga set on the coast of France where a tented British hospital complex has been erected to serve the wounded.
The story centers on the adjustment of a group of young, inexperienced nurses with a stand out performance by Oona Chaplin, daughter of Geraldine Chaplin. Oona’s character, Kitty bristles against authority, challenging the head nurse and even the male doctors. I can imagine her joining the British Suffragists when the war is over.
For laugh-out-loud fun, watch the BBC series Black Books on Netflix.
It’s chock full of irreverent humor as only the British can deliver. The series features a boozy, eccentric bookstore owner, his daft assistant and their close friend, Fran (Tamsin Greig) who takes on the guys in a style reminiscent of Elaine in Seinfeld.
Season three of the very popular Australian series, Janet King is now on Acorn TV.
I was fully absorbed in the first two seasons of this series, which offers a standout lead performance by Marta Dusseldorf who plays King, a senior crown prosecutor. King is a complex character: a strong feminist at court and after work a vulnerable single mother caring for her young twins.
To add a documentary to the mix, make time for Netflix’s 13th written and directed by Ava DuVernay who distinguished herself with Selma.
13th highlights the glaring reality that our nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans. It’s a cinematic complement to Michelle Alexander’s bestseller, The New Jim Crow.
Videos for me are more than a simple distraction. I’m empowered when I follow strong women like Ofred, bold female detectives, or early feminists like the nurses in WWI. I’m enriched by documentaries like 13th. But now it’s time to put aside electronic viewing and read a real book. I need both in my life.