12 Underrated Female Characters in Television and Film
Giving credit where credit is due
Written by Celeste Zirm
Some characters are beloved by all. They impact audiences in profound ways that force viewers to exclaim, “I love them!” But what about the characters whom few consider to be their favorites? The characters who contribute so much to the plot, yet are often overlooked, or worse, downright disliked. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are 12 female characters from popular television and film franchises who are often misunderstood, overlooked, or underrated.
Padmé Amidala - Star Wars
Padme gets very little recognition in the Star Wars franchise, despite being an awesome character. She dedicated her life to democracy, serving from a young age as the queen and senator of her planet. Those who claim she died from sadness are not fully considering the mental health toll of watching everything you’ve fought for fall apart in front of you, along with seeing the person you love become a villain.
Sansa Stark - Game of Thrones
Sansa is often disrespected because of her annoying, child-like wishes in the beginning of the series, but Sansa showed some serious character growth. She learned intellectual and political strategies from every person she interacted with, and used these lessons to protect her kingdom and defend her family. She may not have been physically strong, but her inner strength allowed her to survive the series and end up as a queen.
Nani Pelekai - Lilo and Stitch
Nani is Lilo's older sister who steps up as her legal guardian after their parent’s death. In addition to maintaining a house and dealing with Lilo and Stitch’s crazy antics, she also works many hours at different jobs to financially support Lilo and herself. She puts her life on hold to keep her family together and to be the best big sister she can be. She doesn’t get enough credit for the sacrifices and decisions she made to raise her younger sister.
Emily Charlton - The Devil Wears Prada
Emily is often regarded as “stuck up” or “snobby,” but in reality she was just doing her job. In order to get the coveted role of assistant to Miranda Priestly, she had to work hard. Surviving in an industry as cutthroat as fashion requires a confidence that can be misconstrued as arrogance. Emily is definitely not the villain, but rather the product of her environment — and she deserves more recognition.
Merida of DunBroch - Brave
She may be the main character of her movie, but Merida never seems to get any credit as a Disney Princess, despite having a highly empowering story. Merida is fiercely independent and refuses to let her life be decided for her. Despite initially making things worse for her family, she works hard to restore her family and get the freedom she craves.
Tiana (The Princess and the Frog): Perhaps the recent outcry against her new ride at Walt Disney World replacing a classic attraction makes Tiana feel particularly underrated right now. Her story is arguably one of the most relatable Disney Princess stories because she has a goal of opening her own restaurant and worked hard to make that a reality. It’s so refreshing to see a Princess who doesn’t need a man, but rather financial freedom and a place to be creative.
Tiana - The Princess and the Frog
Perhaps the recent outcry against her new ride at Walt Disney World replacing a classic attraction makes Tiana feel particularly underrated right now. Her story is arguably one of the most relatable Disney Princess stories because she has a goal of opening her own restaurant and worked hard to make that a reality. It’s so refreshing to see a Princess who doesn’t need a man, but rather financial freedom and a place to be creative.
Catelyn Stark - Game of Thrones
It’s about time Lady Catelyn gets the recognition she deserves. Catelyn defends her children with everything she has, placing family and honor above all else. In fact, if her son Robb had listened to her, the Red Wedding would never have happened. Even in her last moments, she only thought of her family. She really should have been talked about more throughout the series for all the things she did for House Stark.
Donna Sheridan - Mamma Mia!
Donna may be known for her singing and bold fashion choices, but honestly, she is an awesome mom who works hard to give her daughter a good life. She worked all night and day to pay the bills she had to pay as the entrepreneur and business owner of her hotel. She made the best of her situation and overcame a lot of hardship, and she doesn’t get enough credit.
Gloria Pritchett - Modern Family
Gloria doesn’t necessarily get recognition for overcoming all she has in life. She raised her son, moved to the United States and tried to give her son a better life, all practically on her own. While during the show we see her as wealthy and beautiful, several episodes allude to how hard she worked to get to this position, and those struggles are not acknowledged enough.
Francesca Bridgerton - Bridgerton
For those who’ve only watched the show “Bridgerton,” you probably don’t even remember Francesca. Most of the first two seasons she spends off-screen, due to the actress's scheduling conflicts. Her story in the books, however, is one of overcoming grief and loneliness, and trying to find her place in the world. It’s a beautiful story, and audiences can’t wait to see how they play it out on screen in the coming seasons.
Phoebe Buffay - Friends
While none of the “Friends” characters are exactly underrated, Phoebe has a particularly interesting story. We often hear her talk about how her mom died when she was very young. Throughout the series, we learn that she never knew her dad, didn’t finish high school and lived on the streets. Despite all this, she never lets her spirit suffer, and ends up with a career and a great group of friends.
Kate Sharma - Bridgerton
Despite being the leading lady for season two, Kate wasn’t in much of the promotional content for the show. She is the definition of an older sibling, giving up everything in order to protect her younger sister Edwina from the truth and ensure she has a good life, even when that means putting her own needs aside. She only ever has Edwina’s best intentions in mind, even though Edwina does not appreciate it.