What the TV Women of the 2000s Taught Us

Picture this: it’s the 2000s. The radio is blasting Britney Spears’ “Toxic” for the thousandth time, and you’re just starting to get the hang of how the Internet works. 

Aside from the boom of technology, the 2000s are well-known now for their mountain of pop culture references and trends. Low-rise jeans, the resurgence of mainstream pop music, and raunchy comedies are just a few of the products of this decade; however, one of the most notable things from this era is the wide range of strong female characters it gave us. Gone were the days where females were only portrayed as the secondary characters, as Alex Russo (Wizards of Waverly Place), Lorelai Gilmore (Gilmore Girls), Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl), and many more graced our television screens. 

This decade gave us more complex female characters, with a wide selection of women to draw inspiration from. Just like many other pieces of media though, some of them didn’t end up aging well. What was empowering in the 2000s can be explored differently in today’s climate. This doesn’t mean that audiences should forget about these characters though, because there certainly is still a silver lining to the representation they provided at the time. 

Now here’s a couple of fictional women from the 2000s and the tropes they represent:

  1. Cristina Yang – ‘Strong Female Character’ Trope

“Screw beautiful; I’m brilliant.” 

The strong-willed and determined Cristina Yang was what audiences needed in the early 2000s. Her attitude contradicts many stereotypes of women on-screen, and was more than complimentary in the field she was in Grey’s Anatomy. Cristina embodies the ‘strong female character’ trope — a woman who is tough, career-focused, and doesn’t let anyone get in her way.

Brief Description: Cristina Yang on screen saying “pretty good is not enough, I wanna be great.”
Courtesy of American Broadcast Company 

While it is refreshing to see an unapologetic woman on television, it is also worth noting that Cristina does have some faults. She is strong-willed, but her ambition to be the best causes her to hurt people along the way, especially the people closest to her. At the end of the day, audiences should keep in mind that the ambition to be great doesn’t have to sacrifice our relationships with other people. 

  1. Carrie Bradshaw – ‘Main Character Syndrome’ Trope

“Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself.” 

Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw teaches viewers many things, such as the perfect shoes to wear and what not to do during the first date, but perhaps the most important lesson is that there is nothing wrong about a womanwho chooses herself first. Carrie is always unapologetic about the things she wants  in a relationship. We see her struggle it out with Mr. Big (Chris Noth) as well as her other love interests. She ultimately chooses what she truly deserves, and her best friends are always there for her. 

Carrie Bradshaw thinks to herself: “I felt like a fool. I had gone so far out on a limb with my feelings that I didn’t realize I was standing out there alone.” 
Courtesy of HBO 

Carrie is a prime example of the ‘main character syndrome’ trope. Technically, she is the main storyteller in Sex and the City, but this can be seen in different instances. Carrie can be selfish at times, resulting in her even becoming the ‘other woman’ at one point and not caring who is hurt in the process. Even when she has to face the truth and everyone she has hurt, the only thing she cares about is how this affects her. It’s important to remember that while loving yourself is a must, it isn’t an excuse to let other people get hurt in the process. 

  1. Rory Gilmore – ‘Bookworm Model Student’ Trope 

“Who cares if I’m pretty if I fail my finals?” 

Amidst all the night-out-loving ladies like Serena Van der Woodsen (Gossip Girl), Rory Gilmore is a representation of heaven for the women who love staying home to read books and study. In the early seasons, she also represents the inner nerd all of us have and our need to strive to be the best version of ourselves in school. Rory is an example of the ‘bookworm model student’ trope, and isn’t afraid of admitting she needs help at times. 

Rory Gilmore answering a question whether to go out or not: “I can’t. I have to study”
Courtesy of The Warner Brothers Television Network 

However, with her academic success comes a particular entitlement on her end. When it is time to enter the real world, Rory has trouble coping with the fact that she is just like everyone else, meaning that she has to work hard as well. It’s vital to keep in mind that no matter what we achieve in life, there is still room for growth and improvement. 

  1. Leslie Knope – ‘Type A’ Trope 

“Winning is every girl’s dream, but it’s my destiny.” 

‘Type-A’s who love getting everything organized celebrated in seeing Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope. Aside from being headstrong and determined, she is a binder-loving councilwoman. Mostly seen taking charge and motivated in doing work, as well as her color-coordinated notes and alphabetized system, fellow Type A viewers related to Leslie. The councilwoman shows us that being bossy and getting the job done isn’t that bad and does genuine good for the community. However, her always-prepared attitude leads Leslie to her own downfall.

There are times when she isn’t sure of where to stop, as letting her competitiveness get the best of her causes her to cross the boundaries of the people she works with. Additionally, while Leslie’s willpower to serve is a great trait, she has to learn not to be too concerned with the outcome and with winning. On the bright side, Leslie always believed in the power of community. Teaching its viewers that there is nothing wrong with going the extra mile for the people you care about.  

Leslie Knope explains that she’s tired and sleep deprived lately: “I’ve only slept nine hours over the past four days, so I’m right on the verge of a nervous breakdown” as she accidentally bites her phone topped with cream.
Courtesy of NBC

All these fictional television females present to audiences different sides of what it means to be a woman. While it’s understandable to relate to them, it is important to remember that they also have flaws. The impressive thing about how female representation has changed over the years though is that while these tropes still exist, they are only a front to introduce the character. 

For instance, in Sex Education, Maeve Wiley is depicted as being the ‘tough girl’ trope on the surface. However, viewers quickly learn that she isn’t as one-dimensional as she is first presented. Maeve is a breed of different tropes put together; she has a strong personality and is also a bookworm. Ted Lasso’s Rebecca Welton is first introduced as the stereotypical boss out for revenge; yet, she also proves to be kindhearted and wants the best for the people close to her. 

While female representation in the media still continues to evolve, it is progressing. More women are behind the scenes to create their narratives now, whether it’s in writing, directing, or even producing. There are still places to improve, especially in terms of intersectionality and diversity. One thing is for sure: the 2000s gave storytellers and writers an adequate blueprint of female representation. It offered us traits of strong women to be followed, as well as tropes that can be subverted to have further multifaceted women on screen. Besides, just like the traits that Cristina, Carrie, Rory, and Leslie display, there’s always room for improvement when telling female-driven stories.