3 Women-Led Shows to Catch on Netflix This Weekend

It can be difficult to navigate the variety of shows available on Netflix. What I tend to do is spend way more time than I should deciding what to watch instead of actually watching them. Ironically, I am a freelance film and television writer — I basically get commissioned to write about shows I think are worth your time. Well, women-led shows definitely are, given just how exhausting it is to see men dominate your screens every waking second. In this article, let me narrow down your options on the women-led shows available on Netflix — from comedy to biography, television, and film. 

Derry Girls, Dir. Lisa McGee - Irish Comedy Series  Image credit: Channel 4

Lisa McGee’s comedy television series Derry Girls focuses on the lives of five teenage girls — yes, including James, the wee English fella — during the Troubles in 1990s Northern Ireland. What is striking about Derry Girls, in particular, is how it does everything right by teenage girlhood: it delights in the unbridled optimism which characterises teenage life, while aware of the violence which plagued Ireland in the 1990s. Within media representation, teenage girls usually receive the brunt of adult cynicism and misogyny — their confidence is despised, and their passions are ridiculed. Derry Girls, however, celebrates this confidence in all its brilliance. In doing so, the series tells us that teenage girlhood is something to be cherished. More importantly, while it situates the girls’ coming-of-age within an era where violence is prevalent, it never once suggests that their struggles are less important than the social issues at hand. The series is indeed apt for those of us out here struggling to live our lives in spite of the violence of politics, and tells us that our daily lives matter too. 

Elisa y Marcela, Dir. Isabel Coixet - Lesbian Biographical Film  Image credit: Berlin International Film Festival

Isabel Coixet’s lesbian biographical film, Elisa y Marcela, firmly reminds us why the period drama genre continues to be vital, and indispensable to lesbian representation. Lesbian representation which respects the heterogeneity of our desire is rare. As such, Elisa y Marcela’s dedication to honouring lesbians in history is definitely a triumph for lesbian narratives in media.

Coixet’s film traces the bravery of two Spanish lesbians, Elisa and Marcela, whose marriage to each other in 1901 documented the first same-sex marriage in Spain. As remaining historical documents have it, in order to mitigate the increasing lesbophobic violence toward them, Elisa passed off as a man named Mario, and both women were later legally wedded by Father Cortiella, a parish priest of San Jorge. However, Elisa and Marcela’s disguise soon unravelled, which resulted in their persecution. Elisa and Marcela were forced to flee, and that fact is the last anyone has heard of them. These were real lesbians forced to vanish as if they never were. 

What the film does best, however, is empathetically flesh out the courage of lesbians who dared to marry in a church despite what their faith has degradingly insinuated of them. Indeed, the courage of lesbians has no need for measures of hegemonic authenticity. Our existence itself is a revolutionary act in a homophobic and misogynistic world, and this miracle is what I believe Coixet rightfully focuses on. Our access to lesbian history may have been lost, but what filmmakers can do at this present moment is make the choice to present lesbians in all their complexities and bravery. A choice like this is even more pressing — politically, socially, and culturally — given the abysmal state of lesbian representation in media right now. So if you have time today, do check out this film — it has been heavily panned by (straight) male critics, but as a lesbian film journalist myself, I can vouch for the sincerity, respect, and empathy the film shows towards lesbians who were socially persecuted for their love. 

Line of Duty - Crime Thriller TV Series  Image credit: Aiden Monaghan / BBC / World Productions

Now, I know that this recommendation is quite an odd fit — while Line of Duty is not exactly physically led by women, it does a brilliant job at showcasing the complexities of womanhood. In no way are the women in this series ever reduced to one-dimensional caricatures, or weighed down by the men in their life. In fact, while most of these women are married or divorced with children, these relations are never the sole cause in determining the outcome of their lives, and neither do these relations somehow nullify their potential for violence. Women, after all, are human beings with different experiences in life which could end up impacting the decisions they make — patriarchal structures do, and will always limit these decisions, but to persistently see shows where women are not granted the least bit of autonomy is downright tiring. Line of Duty, however, affords its women characters the freedom to simply be, instead of being insistently defined by the male characters around them. If you are planning to tuck in for a weekend of strong female leads, Line of Duty is just right up your alley!

However, these are merely my selections — you might have another list that is totally different. If you have any suggestions that you feel strongly about, do comment below this post!