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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Augustana chapter.

Growing up, I watched a lot of TV, much to the chagrin of my parents. Even now, I’m always watching something, even if it is just background noise for a main task. TV is an important part of my life, and when I think about my knowledge of the world–on both big and small topics–a lot of it came from TV. That being said, here are five female TV leads I have learned valuable life lessons from. 

 Phoebe Buffay

Out of all the friends on Friends, Phoebe has always been my favorite. Though she’s portrayed as the weird girl that always seems to be out of it, for me, Phoebe has always been a role model. As someone who looks at the world in a positive light and believes in the people around her, Phoebe inspires me to enjoy the little things in life. And as a weird girl myself, Phoebe reminds me to flourish in my personality. But despite all the positivity, Phoebe has her moments of fear, anger, and stress. But even then, she gets through it with the help of her friends and her optimistic approach to life. My favorite Phoebe episode is in Season 4, when she tells Frank–her long lost brother–that she will be a surrogate for him and his wife. That decision just shows how she leads life with an open heart.

Raven Baxter

Raven Baxter is my childhood superhero. An aspiring fashion designer with a sharp tongue, Raven shows me how important it is not only stand up for my friends, but also myself. She always takes herself seriously, especially when it came to her visions. Her visions were out of the ordinary, which I think gave Raven the chance to approach life in out of the ordinary ways. My favorite episode was in Season 3, when Raven and Chelsea both apply for a job at a clothing shop, but only Chelsea gets hired even when Raven did better during the interview. Raven’s vision later revealed that the owner of the store was racist and didn’t hire Raven because she was black. Raven uses the vision to expose the owner and teach a valuable lesson about racism in the workplace. 

Temperance Brennan

Temperance Brennan, better known by her nickname “Bones,” is a genius forensic anthropologist that solves crimes along with FBI agent Seeley Booth. As a science major, and a woman pursuing a career in STEM, I always looked up to Brennan. I admired the confidence with which she approached her field and was in awe of her passion for her work. Brennan approaches both her work and personal lives with objectivity, as the show goes on, she realizes that that may not always be the best way to look at things. As a scientist, I am taught to look at everything in front of me objectively, making sure everything goes along with their predestined roles. However, when I saw Brennan solving murders with objectivity but addressing the bigger questions of life, death, and human rights, I was inspired to do the same with my own education and future career. 

Jessica Huang

Jessica Huang is the matriarch leading the Huang family in Fresh Off the Boat. As an immigrant and a mother, Jessica not only has to get used to America herself, she has to find a way to keep her sons connected to Chinese culture while they are only exposed to American culture. My favorite Jessica moment is in Season 1, when she takes over the school play. An outraged mother doesn’t understand Jessica’s strict directing and when she asks her if she does anything for fun, Jessica says that she spends her time teaching her sons valuable lessons, so they can be successful in life. Seeing Jessica on the big screen made me think of my own mother. I appreciate my mother every day, but when I first saw Jessica on Fresh Off the Boat, I immediately thought back to all the ways my mother maintained our Bangladeshi culture in America. In a country that is so adamant about assimilation, it is hard to hold onto your identity, but Jessica showed me that without my identity and culture, I wouldn’t be who I am. 

Olivia Benson

This comes as no surprise, but Lieutenant–now Captain–Olivia Benson is one of my biggest heroes from TV. She is caring, determined, empathetic, and vigilant in her chase. I learned a lot about the American judicial system, especially in regards to sexual assault trials, from Law & Order: SVU. But the greatest thing I learned from Captain Benson was the importance of believing a victim. In a social and political climate where victim-blaming is rampant, Captain Benson reminds that in order to help others get justice, we have to begin by being their allies in every way we can. My favorite Captain Benson moment is during Season 20, when she fights to solve a case for a lawyer that was sexually assaulted. Even though the lawyer was suing the NYPD, Captain Benson did not approach her as an enemy but recognized her as a victim who needed her help. By standing up for all victims, Captain Benson reminds us that we are all human, and we need to look out for another. 

I think people often underestimate the power of television. While some may think they are watching a television show for the sake of watching a television, I urge you to think about what you have learned from the people you see on the screen. There are so many TV shows with amazing female leads, and we can all learn something from them. To me, the actresses on TV are not just portraying a character, they are working to send us an important message about being human. 


Ila Mostafa is currently a Neuroscience major and Biology minor at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. She enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family. She is usually either starting a new story without finishing an older one or studying. Ila hopes to go to graduate school and eventually do research on Parkinson's Disease.
Joselyn Pena

Augustana '20

Augustana 2020