If you’re looking for a way to commemorate International Women’s Day (March 8) without the inconvenience of leaving the couch or turning off the TV, we’ve got you covered. Sit back and enjoy life lessons about work, motherhood, aging, fashion and death metal karaoke from these five entertaining, fierce, stylish and diverse characters you can find and get to know on Netflix and Hulu:
Jessica Huang (Fresh Off the Boat): Mother, Author, Immigrant
Jessica Huang is many things: perfectionist, wife, mother, author, immigrant, real estate agent and friend. To call her funny is a massive understatement, as acknowledged by Vulture which called her “TV’s queen of one-liners.” Jessica’s confidence and status as a cultural outsider afford her a unique perspective and the license to say whatever pops in her head resulting in some brutally honest, hilarious one-liners.
Some of our favorites?
- “It’s just like chess. Children are the pawns and you are the queen.”
- “Interesting how you’ll pay a stranger to cook for us, but you expect me to do it for free.”
- “No one seems to appreciate how I’m good at everything I do.”
- “If we get separated, try and join a white family.”
At her core, Jessica just wants what’s best for her three sons—Eddie, Emery and Evan—and there is nothing she won’t do and no school official she won’t terrorize to bring their bright futures to fruition. In the case of her youngest and favorite son, Evan, Jessica insists that he aspire to become the country’s first Doctor-President, so she doesn’t dream small.
It’s safe to say that the odds are stacked against the Huang family from the very beginning. In the first episode, they’re moving from DC to Florida so Jessica’s husband Louis can open a steakhouse. They’re visibly different from their neighbors and they’ve left their friends and family behind in Washington, D.C. but somehow there’s never any doubt that they’ll succeed and that’s largely owing to Jessica’s strength of will.
But Jessica doesn’t allow her love for her sons or family to stand in the way of what’s right. In one of the show’s more memorable episodes, “Persistent Romeo” (Season 1, Episode 5) it’s time for Louis to have the talk with his eldest son Eddie. But once Jessica realized that Louis forgot to discuss the importance of consent with his son, Jessica takes matters into her own hands, sneak attacking her son with a stuffed animal while yelling, “Like that? You like that? No! Well, girls don’t either! No means no! Respect girls!” It is hands down one of the most absurd, fantastic moments in television and a weirdly beautiful moment depicting a parent doing everything in her power to raise a good man.
Frankie Bergstein (Grace and Frankie): Artist, Mother, Entrepreneur, Divorcee, Hippie
There’s no denying that the entertainment industry isn’t always welcoming toward women as they age. According to a study by Time, “female actors reach their professional pinnacles at age 30” making a show about a friendship between an 80-year-old and 74-year-old women downright revolutionary. And if Grace and Frankie is revolutionary, the character of Frankie as played by Lily Tomlin is an utterly unexpected delight. “Why would you tell at a golden retriever? They’re like living hugs!” she exclaims at one point.
Frankie Bergstein might be a grandmother but she defies the stereotype at every turn from her frequent drug-induced spiritual quests to her habit of performing interpretive dances recreationally to her decision to become a first-time entrepreneur making vibrators for women with arthritis. She embraces life—including her age—with such joy and whimsy that the very process of aging and taking on new life stages becomes an adventure.
And Frankie doesn’t just make the most of her own life. In “The Crosswalk” (Season 5, Episode 1) Frankie takes on ageism with a campaign to extend the walk time at a busy intersection. The challenges of ageing are a frequent subject in Grace and Frankie; with a median age of 77 between the two protagonists, subjects like assisted living facilities, maintaining a vital and active lifestyle and overzealous attention from concerned relatives are bound to be occasional subjects of conversation, but thanks to Frankie those conversations are never boring.
Moira Rose (Schitt’s Creek): Actress, Singer, Diva, Fashionista, Mother
The wigs. The accent. The wardrobe. The utterly bizarre and incomprehensible career. Schitt’s Creek’s Moira Rose is a true original—a testament to survival, unwillingness to conform and bold style. As the EW said, “There’s no character on television quite like Moira Rose. A displaced city socialite remanded to a life of small-town stasis, the matriarch of Schitt’s Creek’s stranded Rose family raucously inserts herself into the unglamorous tedium of bucolic America, wielding a vicious vocabulary and vivacious wardrove which, vital as they are for Moira, serve as even more powerful tools in the hands of actress Catherine O’Hara.”
Following her family’s highly-publicized exile from New York, it would be easy for Moira Rose to give up, to abandon her expensive wardrobe and wigs and conform to life in a small town. But not Moira Rose. She’s too confident, too fond of the spotlight and entirely too fabulous to attempt to play a lesser ordinary being. And in her defense, depriving the world of such witticisms as “So was my Galapagonian tortoise-shell foot bath and now some lonely hoarder is letting his cats poop in it” would be a cruelty too far. While all four members of the Rose family are inherently funny, Moira might be the least grounded of the group, which is really saying something, and this lack of awareness combined with her affected accent make for some truly ludicrous gems including:
- “When you have limited resources, your best course of action is to create a stir. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s like the episode of Sunrise Bay where I stole my own baby.”
- “A heavy salad might as well be a casserole.”
- “I worked in soaps. They had me playing my own father, who then became pregnant despite the vasectomy. I still hold the record for the longest-running demonic possession on daytime television.”
Umma Kim (Kim’s Convenience): Mother, Immigrant, Protestant, Entrepreneur
It’s worth noting that "Umma" is not actually the character’s first name but, instead, the Korean word for "mom." In three incredible seasons the Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience never offers any other name for the matriarch of the family but Mrs. Kim is a force of nature with or without a first name. Like Fresh Off the Boat, this Canadian sitcom captures the awkwardness and humor of the immigrant experience; in this case, the experience of Mrs. Kim and her husband who relocated from South Korea to Toronto, Canada where they run a convenience store.
In many ways, Mrs. Kim is an archetypal mother figure. She’s heavily involved in her church, shares the responsibilities of running the family store and lovingly harasses her daughter about finding a nice Christian Korean boy to date. There’s comfort in this simplicity, but Mrs. Kim—like the show—should not be underestimated. Vulture has this to say about the sitcom: “Insofar as anything approximating a pure sitcom exists anymore, Kim’s Convenience is the ideal. The show’s concept is simple, and it’s executed within an inch of its life.”
If Mrs. Kim is playing the role of the archetypal mother it’s because she wants to, because seeing her children, store and church succeed bring her joy. What makes the show special is that she’s blazing a path for her family as a pioneer, a first-generation immigrant who is proud of her heritage, spends hours making kkorigomtang (oxtail soup) for her family and refuses to follow her husband’s example in shunning their son for past indiscretions.
Aggretsuko (Aggretsuko): Accountant, Karaokist, Red Panda
Aggretsuko is the rare female television character whose defining personality trait is her rage. Kawaii (Japanese for lovable, cute and adorable) on the outside and seething at workplace injustice on the inside, Aggretsuko requires an outlet for her emotions and that outlet just happens to be death metal karaoke. The Verge called the Japanese anime musical comedy “a shockingly insightful portrait of feminine rage.”
“If Hello Kitty is a blank canvas ready for all manner of partnerships, Aggretsuko is her polar opposite: she is the frenzied energy of a Jackson Pollock painting, and it’s comprised only of red and black paint.” IndieWire called the show “a subversive gem” noting that the therapeutic effects of Aggretsuko’s death metal karaoke sessions are not limited to the red panda. “Fortunately, watching a tiny red panda transform rage into fiery scream therapy is equally satisfying for the viewer to experience vicariously,” the article noted.Mindless rage might not be an admirable quality, but a character who feels comfortable expressing her rage and frustration is inherently revolutionary. While the character is deeply rooted in the realities and norms of Japanese work culture—The Verge praised the show for “its refreshingly accurate portrayal of working women in Asia—especially their pent-up rage in response to the ways they’re expected to perform in society”—anyone can benefit from the lessons Aggretsuko has to teach about self-care and finding your passion.