In aid of supporting more female-focused films and shows, we’ve edited our selection of what to watch on Netflix in May to reflect the growing number of multi-faceted roles for women and the continued need to highlight the topics that really have an impact on us.
For years, the female characters portrayed on both big and small screens have fit into a pre-prescribed, cookie-cutter, one-dimensional image.
Roles for women, and their presence in TV and film in general, has been severely lacking in diversity and development, leaving many female actors with a shrinking pool of opportunities.
But although the films, documentaries and TV shows made by, starring or serving women and the issues that affect them, are still rare enough to make headlines, we’re finally seeing some progress.
In 2018 we’re seeing an increasing amount of female talent both in-front of and behind the camera, helped by well-known figures in these industries voicing their support for projects backed by women. In addition, box-office numbers and audience feedback has shown the need for more diversity in how we see women in the limelight and what they’re talking about.
But it’s not just about multi-billion pound pictures showing at the Odeon in Leicester Square. In order for us to see properly developed female characters and an increase in inclusion of the topics that have an impact on us, we need women to be prolific across a range of media to reflect the diverse nature of women in the real world.
From comedians to documentary stars, we’ve looked at what to watch on Netflix this May through an especially female-focused lens, picking out content that reflects the multi-faceted nature of women.
From Maya Angelou’s incredible documentary, to a selection of fiercely hilarious female comics talking everything from breastfeeding to the reality of long-term relationships, consider your must-watch list well-stocked.
The one fronted by a TV veteran
A Little Help with Carol Burnett
In this funny and endearing series, American actress, comedian, singer and writer, Carol Burnett, invites celebrities to share their dilemmas with some of the most honest and unfiltered people in the world – a gaggle of straight talking, entertaining five year old kids.
This group of very opinionated “experts” delightfully refuse to recognise fame or fortune, and dish up some rather frank advice to well-known faces, much to amusement of the live audience (and us).
Burnett is famously known as the original Annie and has a career that has spanned a causal seven decades. We’re glad to see a woman so rich with experience and an undeniable stage presence at the helm of her own show.
Launch date: 4 May
The one that discusses issues for women of colour
Dear White People: Season two
If you missed the first season of this Netflix Original series, spawned from the 2014 film of the same name, it’s time to jump on the band-wagon. Dear White People is a sartorial comedy-drama that follows a group of students of colour, attending a predominantly white Ive League university, as they navigate a landscape of social injustice, cultural bias, political correctness (or lack thereof) and often misguided activism in the millennial age.
It’s an intentional send-up of “post-racial” America and makes some important points, challenging the supposed “woke-ness” of society in 2018. After its critically-acclaimed beginnings, it’s back this month to take on topics such as cultural appropriation, sex and gender norms, fake news and much more. Make sure you’re there to see it.
Launch date: 4 May 2018
The one written by our comedy hero
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4
Kimmy Schmidt’s bullet-proof optimism is back for a fourth season, and this time she’s tackling her career head on. Watch as she starts her new job at a tech start-up, and is predictably met with a whole host of challenges.
We don’t know too much about the new season yet, but you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll be just as hilarious as those that have come before it - especially as it’s written by Tina Fey. Considering her specialty is presenting fully-formed and wryly depicted female narratives, it’s no surprise fans are still on board with this brilliant series.
Launch date: 30 May
The one about female friendship
This lighthearted comedy follows three best friends as they take the ultimate girls holiday to renowned party destination Ibiza. It’s predictably full of sun-drenched scenes and scandalous nights out, with some trials and tribulations of the heart thrown in for good measure.
The focus of this female-centric drama is the character of Harper, who does what many of us would do if invited to Barcelona for a work opportunity: she invites her friends along with her. But when the women decide to take some well-earned time off and fly to Ibiza, Harper starts a relationship with a DJ on the island, even though it’s against her better judgement.
This tale highlights the importance and intricacies of female friendships and the huge impact these relationships have on every aspect of our lives.
Launch date: 25 May
The one showing off female comedic talent
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife
Two years after giving birth to her daughter, a very pregnant Ali Wong returns to Netflix in her second original stand-up comedy special, Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife.
The always unapologetic first-time mum gets real on why she thinks having kids is not all it’s cracked up to be, including the challenges of breastfeeding and balancing a family and career post pregnancy. Although darkly hilarious, she shines a light on issues that, despite being experienced by nearly half the planet, are rarely given the attention they deserve.
Wong also makes a case for three years of paid maternity leave, opening up the conversation around the lack of support that most new mothers receive.
Launch date: 13 May
The one that tells it like it is
Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here
Comedian Tig Notaro brings her signature deadpan silliness to the screen in Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here, which is filmed at the historic Heights Theater in Houston.
Notaro tackles the comedic sides of marriage, parenting and being invited to an Ellen DeGeneres party, then closes the set with a tease that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Although more and more female comedians are making their mark on the entertainment world, it’s still seen as largely a male-dominated profession, which makes the production of shows such as this one even more important.
Launch date: 22 May
The one featuring a female icon
Some Like it Hot
Marilyn Monroe is, of course, one of the most iconic female actors of all time, so what would this list be without her?
We’re a sucker for any of her films, and Some Like It Hot is known as one of her most famous titles. In this 1959 classic, Monroe stars as an all-female jazz band’s lead singer who becomes entangled in an underworld of mobster crime. The mark she made on the film has undeniably acted as inspiration for millions of young female actors, and captivated audiences for decades.
Launch date: 1 May
The one for lovers of reality-TV
Love Island: Seasons one and two
Love Island was the show that tickled 2016 and rocked 2017, winning over pretty much the whole nation with the hilarious, and often jaw-dropping, antics of its contestants. Despite its relatively basic premise, it sparked some interesting debates on topics including feminism and mental health.
Now you can enjoy every episode all over again, thanks to Netflix picking up the first two seasons.
Launch date: 1 May
The one that will stay with you for a lifetime
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
Writer, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is remembered as one of the most important voices of our time, having spoken frankly about racial injustice, sexual abuse, women’s rights and much more.
But despite being an awe-inspiring figure, who left an incredible body of work and wealth of wise quotes behind her, this is the first film to be made about her life.
The film follows her unbelievable journey from growing up in an impoverished area and being sexually abused as a child, to inspiring generations and achieving remarkable success. If you watch anything on this list, make this the one.
Launch date: 1 May
Images: Getty Images / Netflix