From Girlfriends to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, these are the shows and films that women responded with when we asked them: “What have you watched that’s made you feel most seen?”
When we watch television, we can often be overcome with a mixture of emotions. If you’re indulging in a romcom, you might feel hopeful. If you’re watching an action movie, you can be tense with anticipation of what’s to come next. If you’re watching a true crime documentary, you’ll often be left in a state of shock.
But what about TV that gets to us on a deeper level? There have been countless times when I’ve tuned into a new series or film and finish it to feel a little more hopeful and, in a weird way, a little fuller.
Most recently, after a re-watch of Rocks, I was left in the same heart-warming state I was in when I first watched it after its premiere back in 2019. Growing up in east London, going to an all-girls school and facing the problems teenagers face, Rocks really is the only accurate depiction of my inner-city school experience that I’ve seen on the big screen.
In the same way that Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You validated countless women’s experiences and how Starstruck has so carefully captured the modern dating experience, the real question is: what other shows and films have made women feel most ‘seen’? What show can you relate to the most?
We asked eight women that very question and can guarantee that their picks will not only provide you with recommendations, but will also leave you pining for more meaningful TV.
Evie, 27, Sheffield
“Girl, Interrupted is based on a true story of women with mental health diagnoses who get institutionalised, and when I was younger (aged 13 or 14), I instantly related to the main character, Susanna, who gets diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
“There’s a scene where she sneaks into her doctor’s office and reads her file. She reads out the symptoms of BPD and I remember thinking, ‘That’s me.’ It gave me this sense of belonging and identity during a time where I was really feeling the weight of mental health stigma; I felt different and like I was losing my mind most of the time.
“Fast forward 10 years (with lots of misdiagnoses and subpar support), I was actually institutionalised myself and that’s when I received the BPD diagnosis. I remember thinking, ‘Well, duh.’
“I’ve since learned how problematic and politically loaded the history of BPD diagnoses are for women of colour who have trauma, but the film still holds a place in my heart as the first thing to truly understand me.
“And as much as I hate terms like ‘inner child’, when I watch it and return to that place, I’m reminded to give myself so much self-compassion and be proud of how far I’ve come.”
Kiran, 35, Surrey
“The film Educating Rita is literally my life. I love learning and gaining knowledge, and in real life, I’m living the same life as in the film.
“Not everyone may like me becoming more knowledgeable but I won’t stop, and being a woman of colour myself, I know that we can be more restricted in terms of education. This film really resonates because I’m the oldest in my class currently, but in the film, Rita (Julie Walters) is never scared of learning or wanting to spend time on herself.
“This film embodies the quest to learn where some people would love for me to perhaps just be a mother and wife.”
This Is Us
Bunmi, 26, London
“I unfortunately lost my grandfather unexpectedly last August and my whole view on life, family, love, time and care changed so much as I was very close to my grandfather. Then last November, I also lost my grandmother. I had never experienced grief or the loss of close family members, so my emotions were all over the place. Most of the time, I was either working, crying or watching shows on Prime Video.
“I had heard about This Is Us being an amazing show, but I never watched it until the death of both my grandparents, and my god, did the show depict exactly my feelings.
“As someone who had suffered immense loss in such a short amount of time – and one of the untimely deaths being my grandfather who had dementia – I cried mainly because the show really ‘got’ my emotions surrounding the horrible disease of dementia and what it does to the person and their family.
“Seeing Rebecca in the series was like seeing my grandfather. This Is Us was the show that I used to release my emotions; it taught me about grief, how one displays their grief and how to cope with it.”
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Hayley, 33, Cambridge
“I’ve been a huge fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer since the age of eight and still watch it, collect merchandise and attend comic cons.
“I’ve always been able to relate to the characters and themes. However, I suffer from depression, and when I’m at my lowest, I connect to it the most.
“Most recently, I lost both of my grandparents within a space of four months and The Body episode has been my lifeline. In it, Anya’s speech is the most recent scene I can relate to and makes me feel seen. She manages to explain how I feel about death so well and while it took me a while to be able to listen to it, it has now become my comfort blanket.
“I also have always related to Faith, the outsider who couldn’t quite fit in but does whatever it takes and does it her way. Similarly, I always related to Buffy growing up as she didn’t have a relationship with her dad either, and it made me feel a lot less alone since I was the only person among my friends whose parents weren’t together.”
Taylor, 26, Birmingham
“I’ve been a fan of the black-ish comedy series for a while so when I saw Tracee Ellis Ross was creating this spin-off series based on her character’s (Rainbow Johnson) life, I was super excited.
“The series is all about her childhood and growing up in a mixed-race family in the 80s. They have to ask themselves regularly whether they should try to ‘fit in’ to the majority-white suburb they’ve moved to or just be themselves.
“Even though I didn’t grow up in the 80s, I am mixed-race, so I feel like the show – while being humorous – also allowed me to see that many interracial families go through the same dilemmas.
“There were certain scenes and things that were said to Rainbow that, growing up more recently, have been said to me – it really helped affirm how wide-ranging these experiences can be. But the show also led me to ask (and inquire more with) my own parents about stories from my childhood that were previously quite difficult to discuss.”
Bunmi, 26, London
“I had watched Girlfriends when I was younger but didn’t necessarily take in as much of the characters or themes back then.
“But rewatching the show numerous times as an adult, I see myself in Joan and Toni. Like Joan, I’m a legal professional, career driven and single. I’ve had more downs than ups with relationships, and as I’m nearing 30, I’m anxious about my lack of love life and relationships.
“Like Toni, I also love the finer things in life and somewhat struggle to show vulnerability within relationships. Personally, I resonate with specific themes in Girlfriends but the show always provides teachable moments for how I can act and communicate with the people in my life and beyond.”
Zuva, 26, Leeds
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend pretty much diagnosed me with BPD.
“The entire show resonated with me, but specifically when they through the diagnosis criteria and, while watching, I realised I hit every checkpoint. So I went to the doctor, and long story short, I was diagnosed.
“Essentially, the episode where she gets diagnosed is technically the day I received my diagnosis too!”
We Are Lady Parts
Farzana, 25, London
“How many times do you get to see a group of young Muslim women on your screens? Practically never unless they fall into some kind of ignorant stereotype. That’s why We Are Lady Parts was so damn refreshing when it first aired.
“The comedy showcases punk rock music – a genre I never even considered listening to previously – but it’s really all about not caring what others think and living in your truth.
“It’s hilarious and you can tell it’s based on the director (Nida Manzoor) and her own experiences – it feels authentic and being a Muslim woman myself, it’s just so nice to see.”
Imarni, 28, Manchester
“This is quite a dark drama and a bit of a rogue pick, but I think this BBC series depicted the university and graduate experience really well.
“As well as dealing with a new city, Holly also has to deal with workplace incidents and the glamour that can come with a high-flying career. She tried to stay true to herself as best as she could, and when I watched it – having just graduated at the time – it really did drive home how jarring that university-to-adult-life transition can be.
“Beneath all the drama of the storyline, Holly never abandoned her morals even though they made her stand out and not win any friends in her new company. A professional boundary that, even now, I’m still getting a grasp on.
“It also reminded me that no matter what, you should always continue to check in on your friends also.”
Lead image: Sarah Gavron