We are no longer living in a man’s world. This is not new information. Women now hold positions of high authority in basically every industry, showing the world that they are a force that refuses to be ignored. And just as art imitates reality, the entertainment world reflects women's dominance on television, especially on the CW. Look at all the shows that have become so female-centric on the popular network: Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries, One Tree Hill, Nikita, the dearly departed Veronica Mars and even new series like Hart of Dixie. And with the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar in her new show, Ringer, the list only continues to grow. These ladies are leading the way to ground-breaking television drama where the women hold the spotlight. Take a look at some of the incredible leading ladies of our time as I rate their greatness and find out who to crown the Queen of the CW.
Sarah Michelle Gellar – Ringer
Let’s begin with the girl who helped pave the way for more female-focused shows: Sarah Michelle Gellar. She's got a new drama, Ringer, on the way, be we'll get to that next. First, we have to deal with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer legacy. When the series hit our screens, we were mesmerized by our heroine's exciting -- albeit dangerous -- lifestyle. We’re talking about a girl chosen by fate to battle the evil forces of the world. Gellar's Buffy had super physical strength, endurance, agility, clairvoyance, and accelerated healing abilities. We'd gotten used to men always playing the heroes while women played the obedient damsels in distress, but Gellar knocked all those preconceived notions out of the water with Buffy's awesome skills and abilities. This alone earns her 5 badass points (one for each ability listed, of course).
These days vampires and werewolves are all glorified and glittery, but don’t let those Twilight movies fool you – vampires are dangerous and the people of Sunnydale needed someone like Buffy to protect them from the powerful demons that walked among them. Of course, Buffy had her trials and tribulations in matters of the heart, but she never let it stop her from kicking butt and saving the day, proving that women know how to multitask better than anyone. The point is Buffy didn’t revolve around the show, the show revolved around Buffy and the program ended up benefiting from it, even making Time Magazine’s 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time. Now that’s impressive and easily earns 4 extra points.
So, now the actress has come full circle and will be returning to the network that spawned from the WB (the network that kick-started her career) in the highly anticipated series, Ringer, where we’ll get a double dose of Gellar's talent and drama. We’ve seen actresses play twins before (Parent Trap anyone?), but Gellar has the potential to really raise the bar and continue to move television drama to a whole new level. Instead of battling demons, she’ll take a whole new level of danger: mistaken identity. Throw in her sister’s disappearance, alcoholism, and deep, dark secrets and you’ve got all the makings for a phenomenal show with a woman leading the way. SMG is back and better than ever; set to relinquish that audience connection she forged many years ago. Although this show has yet to air, the amount of excitement and action surrounding it earns Gellar another solid 3 points, but since she’s playing twins I feel like I need to double it – so 6 points it is.
Total: 15 points
Nina Dobrev – The Vampire Diaries
Continuing on the leading lady rampage is Nina Dobrev who plays Vampire Diaries' Elena Gilbert, vampire magnet extraordinaire. This girl seems to have a knack for attracting trouble – and really cute guys. Like Buffy, Elena battles some vampires of her own. Of course we’ve all heard this kind of story before: two men (brother vamps in this case) fight to win a girl’s affection and she is torn between them. Boo-hoo, right? This in itself wouldn’t be the makings of great television, but if you add in the fact that her best friend is a witch, her mother was a vampire, and she herself is a doppelganger, and the fact that she escapes death on a daily basis, then you’ve pushed past the boundaries of tween drama and entered the sexier, more scandalous leagues. This girl comes with a lot of supernatural baggage, but deserves 3 versatility points for being able to adapt to dealing with all the craziness.
While Elena does at times play the damsel in distress card, she also plays a huge role in saving lives (or the undead) as well. She shows absolutely no fear in the face of danger and would die for her family and friends without hesitation. This of course can be seen as a huge flaw, but if she always played it safe and listened to her protective vampire suitor, then the constant battle against evil would not have been as successful. She’s got a backbone and plenty of spunk – and even if it is her fate to die, she’s come to the conclusion that she’s going to go down swinging. She receives an extra 2 points for pure gumption (I’d make it more, but the girl is pretty reckless).
Like Gellar, she too is getting a hand at playing a double role since she also plays her doppelganger vampire look-alike, Katherine. This allows Dobrev to play both an innocent victim and a hardcore enemy, which she seems to handle flawlessly. She makes both of their personalities and mannerisms entirely different, yet still gives them the same defining leading lady characteristic – they’re both fighters. Both of these women are self-confident, brave women that don’t cower away from a fight…even if it’s against the supernatural. This girl gets 3 more points on account of all her bravery and the fact that she’s got really great taste in vampire babes, but since she too plays a double role she gets double the points – 6 it is.
Total: 11 points
Leighton Meester – Gossip Girl
In case the title doesn’t say it for itself, Gossip Girl is a highly popular, highly female-centered show. One of the more complex characters whom I’ve always found most intriguing is the lovely Blair Waldorf, played by Leighton Meester. Her character wears many different hats and has many complicated layers that make her lovable, adored, hated, and pitied. It’s not an easy feat, but Meester seems more than up to the task. This girl’s got a little bit of everything: beauty, popularity; she's the ultimate Queen Bee, but she’s flawed. B has many insecurities, not to mention a pretty rocky love life, but it’s what makes her unique and an asset to the show itself. This girl is all about the drama, but that’s what keeps things interesting. Granted, she doesn’t do any actual fighting (other than with her boyfriend), so I can’t award her any badass points, but she more than makes up for it in her wardrobe. She gets 4 points for her daring style alone.
The episodes gravitate around her because she is the rock that holds the foundation of the show together. If her life was uncomplicated and unrelentingly happy the series would have trouble drawing us in. The beauty of being a leading lady is that you aren’t expected to be perfect because that’s not what the public wants. They want someone they can relate to and see themselves in, so when the character overcomes an obstacle or battles through a horrific ordeal, the audience can imagine themselves in the leading lady's designer shoes. Blair may consisently make bad decisions and constantly allow Chuck to play games with her heart, but what girl isn’t foolish when it comes to love? What the audience will take from all that drama is that no matter how many times Chuck breaks her heart or tears her down, she battles through it and survives. She’s a strong woman who doesn’t let a man get the best of her. If that’s not admirable then I don’t know what is. This girl earns an extra 3 points in the survivor department.
Total: 7 points
Sophia Bush – One Tree Hill
Put a girl in a tight, cheerleading outfit and you’ve got the male audience hooked, but you’re going to need to do a little bit more for the rest of your fan base to maintain their attention. Sophia Bush’s One Tree Hill character, Brooke Davis, becomes your classic transformation story. A girl who started out the show as your stereotypical party girl/head cheerleader/harlot, decides to turn things around and make something of herself. Yes, she still has her cheerleader pep and a flirty attitude, but she becomes a more mature version of herself and transforms into someone high school girls can admire. Four points for a stellar B-Davis attitude adjustment!
Think of the traumatic things that have just happened to her over the course of the past few years: being viciously attacked in her own store, enduring constant ridicule from her mother, and discovering that she may not be able to get pregnant. Life hasn’t been easy for this girl, but it has given her character more depth and has made her become a major asset to the show itself. I’ve got to give her 3 extra points: 1 for each obstacle listed above.
The main plot of the show used to center around the two brothers: Lucas and Nathan, but I believe that it’s the strong female roles that have kept the OTH going. Even when Chad Michael Murray left after the Season Six, the show remained strong and centered more on its female characters, like Brooke and Haley. These ladies get a lot more face-time and not just because they’re nice to look at. The show made heroines out of these women, making them the foundation for most of its plot lines. Whether it was done on purpose or out of necessity since Murray left the show, it’s definitely been to their benefit and proves that women can make a show stand on its own two feet -- and look good doing it. We give Bush 2 points for taking the spotlight from ex-fiance (Murray) and another 2 points for looking like a total babe while doing it.
Total: 11 points
Rachel Bilson – Hart of Dixie
Rachel Bilson will also be joining the CW family this fall as Zoe Hart in the upcoming show Hart of Dixie. While Bilson is no stranger to the small screen, having played Summer Marris on the OC, it’s not all going to be all tanning, shopping, and laying out on the beach with this series. Zoe is a city girl who moves out to Alabama for a job offer as a doctor and experiences the joys of Southern hospitality (or lack there of). Bilson is really kicking it up a notch with this role – combining her adorable charm with some serious, real-life issues. We couldn’t all relate to a privileged high schooler living in a mansion, spending all her time at the beach, but we can understand what it’s like to move away from the comfort of your own home and explore the unknown. In this economy we go where the jobs are even if we’re not that thrilled at where it takes us. Now, Zoe has to completely start over in a new location and make new friends, which can be exciting, but also incredibly nerve-wracking. We won’t just be able to sympathize with this character; we’ll empathize with what she’s going through, which makes her a powerful symbol for the modern working girl. She may not be slaying demons, but she’s a doctor who saves lives and that earns props in my grading system, so I’m giving her 5 points.
The fashionista in me also can’t ignore just how adorable and stylish this petite actress looks in the promos for the show. Granted she supposedly comes from New York City, so it’s almost a given that she’d have incredible fashion sense, but it’s still important to give credit where it’s due. I have a feeling that this girl will even be able to rock the whole white coat-stethoscope look while on the job and that kind of skill can’t be ignored. She gets 3 extra style points.
Total: 8 points
And the winner is...
After tallying up the points the results are as follows: in 4th place is Leighton Meester with 7 points, Rachel Bilson ends strong in 3rd place with 8 points, Nina Dobrev and Sophia Bush tie for 2nd place with 11 points, and our crowned Queen of the CW is our leading lady of television drama, Sarah Michelle Gellar with a whopping 15 points. I can’t say that I’m all that surprised – I mean let’s face it, no one is better than Buffy. But hats off to all the competitors – you’re all leading ladies in my book!