No matter your schedule, it’s essential to have plenty of A-grade binge-watching material to take your mind off...everything else. Shows released for streaming in 2020 so far have killed it in terms of representing strong female leads from diverse walks of life. If you’ve enjoyed shows like Big Little Lies and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in years past, you’re sure to love these seven picks. They’re not only well-written and entertaining, but they also shed light on gender roles, race and class conflict, mental health, and parenthood.
Little Fires Everywhere
If you thought Reese Witherspoon was great as Madeline McKenzie in Big Little Lies, just wait until you start this show. The intriguing drama takes place in all-too-perfect Shaker Heights, Ohio. Witherspoon plays Elena Richardson, a mother of four who works for a local newspaper and manages a rental property. One day she meets photographer Mia Warren, played by Kerry Washington, and her daughter, Pearl, who are new in town and in search of a place to stay. The crime and drama that transpires as the Warrens’ and Richardsons’ grow close are mysteriously captivating. Tackling tough topics like race, class, and motherhood, Little Fires Everywhere will keep you hooked for hours. The show was based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel of the same name.
Mrs. America depicts the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Phyllis Schlafly, the “protagonist” of this show, is a conservative political activist who ardently professes the importance of upholding traditional household values at the expense of total gender equality. Known as “the sweetheart of the silent majority” she leads the effort against the liberal and feminist wave, bringing her in direct conflict with Gloria Steneim, Betty Friedan, and other women determined to bring about equality. The result is a female-driven political drama that’ll keep you on your toes and transport you back to the 1970s.
This story is so powerful it’s almost hard to believe it’s true. Self Made depicts the life of Madam C.J. Walker, an African-American washerwoman who built a widely successful hair care empire and altered the beauty industry for Black women. Walker became a millionaire and a cultural icon; in fact, her line of products are still sold today under its new name “Madam CJ Walker Beauty Culture”! Octavia Spencer brings great spirit and humor to her role as the wildly ambitious Madam Walker, making this four-episode miniseries great for your next binge-watch session.
A Hasidic Jewish woman living in Brooklyn, Esty Shapiro marries young, but the arrangement sours after a year of struggling to consummate the nuptials with her husband. Feeling helpless and ostracized, she flees to Berlin. Esty joins a music conservatory and makes new friends; she grows into a more confident and outspoken woman. Things take a turn when her husband comes to Berlin to look for her, and she must decide whether the importance of meeting familial expectations outweighs her personal happiness. Unorthodox is based on a true story and book, and it examines gender roles within Hasidic cultural traditions.
Never Have I Ever
You’ve probably read Mindy Kahling’s all-too relatable book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? that was popular a few years ago. She hasn’t lost her touch when it comes to describing the challenges of adolescence, coming back full-swing with this new Netflix series. The heartwarming coming-of age story follows the life of Devi Vishwakumar, an Indian-American girl who struggles to overcome the grief of losing her father amid the pressures of high school. This is a common theme in the show; each one of its characters deals with personal challenges and traumas while navigating peer pressure, friend drama, and relationships. It’s also got a great comedic and witty edge.
While the original High Fidelity book and movie features a male protagonist, Zoe Kravitz plays the lead, Robyn, in the Hulu adaptation. She runs a record store called Championship Vinyl in the neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and pursues many of its frequenters. Robyn, much like Rob from the original, gets shot down by these brief love interests, leaving her romantically frustrated. She takes special interest in her Top Five Heartbreaks—her most recent serious partners—so she can better understand why she’s single. Filled with wit, angst, and good music, this show is truly unique. Fans of the original High Fidelity consider this remake to be a great modern version of the story.
Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens
Where: Comedy Central (streamable from YouTube and others)
This series is loosely based off Awkwafina’s own upbringing in Queens. The protagonist, Nora Lin, lives with her father and grandmother as she navigates her early 20s. She struggles alongside her cousin to juggle Asian familial responsibilities with American societal ones in this silly and freshly weird series.
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