Why Netflix’s portrayal of female friendships on TV is always the real deal

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Susan Devaney
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A lack of strong female leads on our screens – both big and small – may have been a hot topic of late (or years…) but thankfully the same can’t be said of authentic female friendship on TV.

After the characters of Samantha, Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte from Sex And The City graced our TV sets for the majority of the 90s and beyond, you could go as far as to say we’ve been hooked on the power of female friendship – along with all of its trials, tribulations and testing talks.


And then came along Girls, Lena Dunham’s TV creation which introduced the character of Hannah Horvath to the world in 2012. Not only did we learn how female friendships help pull us through our twenties—would Hannah have have survived the hustle and bustle of NYC without Jesse, Marnie, and Shoshanna by her side? We think not—but also why they’re an essential must-have when it comes to figuring out life’s hardest questions, as you hope from one job to another, one boyfriend to the next.


Which is why Netflix’s continuous line-up of TV series centred on women coming together – in every shape and form – is the gift that keeps on giving.

From Orange Is The New Black and Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life to Pretty Little Liars, our screens have lit up in recent years with complicated characters, fearless spirits and troublesome duos who’ve got each other’s backs – not just a constant discussion about the male protagonist.  

And if you’re not already scrambling home to catch up on another episode of GLOW (it’s the TV show we never knew we needed until now) then we guarantee female wrestlers circa the 1980s will shortly become your new fav thing.

So, to celebrate the beauty and power of female friendship on screen we spoke with Cindy Holland, VP of Netflix Originals, to find out the dos and don’ts of breaking into the TV industry – whether you want to be in front or behind the camera – and what the future holds for women on the screen.

What advice can you give to women to get into the industry to begin with?

Follow your passions and interests, apply for entry level jobs and keep at it. Join organisations such as Women in Film, and with technology available today, make your own art with a smartphone!

What current barriers are there for women to get behind the camera?

Fewer women with experience, and fewer women coming into the employment pipeline. Hopefully girls will see the success of women like Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black, GLOW, Weeds), Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder), Marta Kaufman (Friends, Grace & Frankie), Tina Fey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch (GLOW), Lisa Rubin (Gypsy) and be inspired - these are many different role models, and that is just showrunners!

How has the global success of shows like Orange is the New Black paved the way for future shows?

Shows such as Orange is the New Black, GLOW and Big Little Lies indicate that there is real demand on the part of the audience to see relatable women of all shapes and sizes, supporting one another on screen. Networks and advertisers want audiences, after all, so hopefully it reassures everyone that programming like this isn't that risky; rather, it's a good investment.

What can be done to encourage Hollywood to create content that reflects women and their relationships rather than projecting old stereotypes?

The success of shows like Orange is the New Black and the Handmaid’s Tale is a big encouragement. Now that we are breaking down the typical female stereotypes, we are finally seeing an emergence of female characters that work together and discuss more topics than just the male protagonist.

Do you think only female directors and creators have the ability to portray female humour, like we see in Orange is the New Black and GLOW, on this scale?

Artists can and do create beyond their experience set, so I wouldn't say that only women can portray women, no. But I do think there is a deeper understanding which can lead to more nuanced portrayals. There is some truth to the adage "write what you know".

Images: Fox and Netflix

  • GLOW

    Inspired by the real story of the 1980s female wrestling league, the series follows an out of work actress who finds one last attempt to live her dreams in the form of a weekly series about female wrestlers. The series explores a more complex look at how women survive in hostile environments and we quickly realise that this is not going to be the kind of story where female characters are reduced to playing the love interest!

  • Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

    Set nearly a decade after the finale of the original series, this revival follows Lorelai, Rory and Emily Gilmore through four seasons of change. Throughout the series we see all three ladies come together to face head on the struggles of grief, love and ambition.

  • Orange Is The New Black

    A privileged New Yorker ends up in a women’s prison when a past crime catches up with her in this Emmy-winning series from the creator of Weeds.

  • Pretty Little Liars

    Rudderless without their missing leader, four formerly tight high school friends band together when a blackmailer threatens to spill their dirt. Over the course of seven series we see Spencer, Aria, Emily and Hannah’s friendship continuously put to the test. However, recognising they are stronger together they find each other’s strengths and work together to defeat the mysterious A.

  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

    When a woman is rescued from a doomsday cult and lands in New York City, she must navigate a world she didn’t think even existed anymore. After finally escaping the underground bunker, we see Kimmy support her fellow captors adjust to life outside of captivity as well as help her wacky employer Jacqueline as she navigates her new found freedom after her recent divorce.

  • Grace and Frankie

    Two women whose lives are suddenly turned upside down when their husbands reveal they are gay and leave them for each other. Both sparring partners and partners-in-crime, they form an unlikely bond to face an uncertain future together and discover a new definition of ‘family’, with laughter, tears and plenty of mood enhancers along the way.