Hillary Clinton may have lost the presidency and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may be investigating gender bias in the hiring of directors in Hollywood, but in 2016 women slayed the small screen.
We've compiled the 10 moments from women on "television" that captivated us. (Yes, we know many of you watch TV on computers, but for the sake of this post we're using that catch-all term.)
Was it a short film? A visual album? An HBO special? Beyoncé's "Lemonade" was so much more. And we're not talking about the Jay Z of it all. As Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, culture editor at Jezebel, told The Frame when the film/album dropped, "a lot of people thought it was about drama, cheating and Jay Z. Perhaps it was about that, but her whole goal was to uplift black women." From the cinematography to the casting, to the use of poetry by Warsan Shire, the film showed us an empowered world of African American sisterhood in the South never before seen like this on television. The mysterious release (HBO only had it available for 24 hours) added to the mystical, lyrical quality of this entrancing piece of visual entertainment. Don't even get us started on the music. Beyoncé slayed 2016.
Created by and starring the British actress and writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, "Fleabag" was a nearly perfect six episodes of television. From how she broke the fourth wall to how she candidly talked about sex without actually showing nudity, "Fleabag" woke us up to something fresh that drew us in and slayed us. Of her character, Waller-Bridge told The Frame, "She has a sexual appetite that she's not embarrassed by. And that to me is just like me and most of my friends. That didn't seem so surprising or shocking and I think that's probably why so many women have responded to that."
3. "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee"
To have a feminist slant on the late night platter of socio-political entertainment was a pure delight — and frankly, a necessity — in 2016. There's too much to highlight from this show. From the Werner Herzog-inspired documentary about Jeb Bush in the first episode to the #NastyWoman T-shirt to the Lizzo performance (see another highlight on this list), "Full Frontal" was the place where fans of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" found a familiar voice, but with a decidedly woman's perspective. Jo Miller was a writer on that show when Bee asked her to be the showrunner of "Full Frontal." Miller told The Frame, "We are kind of unfiltered. Sam goes out there and has a very short time to lay out what's in her heart and what's eating at her gut this week. And not to sugarcoat it or pull back or over-explain it." Our one complaint? This show needs to be on the air more than once a week!
4. Judith Light sings Alanis Morissette’s "Hand In My Pocket" on "Transparent"
Shelly, the mother character in "Transparent" played by Judith Light, is annoying and narcissistic in a way that's more off-putting than any other character in the Pfefferman family. And in the show, she's often the object of eye-rolling from the rest of them. As a viewer, it's easy to find yourself rolling your eyes too, which made it all the more entrancing when she took the stage for a one-woman show in the finale of season 3 and slayed it. Her rendition of Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket" was, dare we say, truly transcendent.
5. Lizzo on "Full Frontal"
The singer Lizzo brought by far the most joyous and optimistic moment of television in all of 2016. On the Nov. 9 episode of "Full Frontal" — the day after the election — she performed the poem/song "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (often referred to as the "Black American National Anthem") and her song "Good as Hell." Lizzo danced in a sparkly leotard, proud of her body and voice equally. (After all, on Twitter she ID's herself as a "Big Fine Bitch. Fat Feminist.") She was accompanied by DJ Sophia Eris, two backup dancers in unitards and three horn players in androgynous suits — all women, all offering optimism, strength and a sense of communal togetherness at a pivotal moment in America.
6. Pamela Adlon’s period speech in "Better Things"
In 2016, FX premiered "Better Things," created by and starring Pamela Adlon. She plays an actress raising her three daughters as a single mom whose own mom lives nearby. It's drawn directly from Adlon's real life. One of the best moments during the first season was when Adlon's character was invited to talk about women's empowerment at her daughters' school. Once on stage, she quickly realizes that she's boring the audience of women and girls with the usual platitudes. So, she turns to the subject of periods. It's one of the best TV monologues of 2016. She addresses the embarrassed girls in the room who are just getting their periods, the older women who no longer have them and suggests everyone throw away the shame. And when she turns her attention to the younger girls who haven't yet started menstruating, she says, "When you do, we have your back." At that moment, you can't help but smile through tears.
7. Sarah Paulson in "The People v. O.J. Simpson"
While Hillary Clinton was getting scrutinized for her looks, her voice and her way of being in the world, it was striking to revisit Marcia Clark — the prosecutor who suffered similar scrutiny in 1994 and 1995. As the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson double murder trial, America saw Clark at work. In 2016, Sarah Paulson played Clark in the FX miniseries "The People v. O.J. Simpson," and in so doing gave everyone a chance to reconsider how we judged the real Clark. Paulson told The Frame this year, "What really matters to me is to remember that Marcia Clark is a thinking, feeling person. It was as if she was a robot. We decided collectively that that wasn't a real person, and we could just use her as a punching bag. That is something I think we should be embarrassed about." Paulson won the Emmy, but Marcia Clark may have won the more lasting prize in the end through Paulson — a new narrative.
8. The best friendship in "Insecure"
We know the friendship in "Insecure" is real from the moment Issa Rae's character arrives at Molly's house with a bag of hot Cheetos and ranch dip. Granted, that's after she raps about Molly's "broken p----" at an open mic and humiliates her in front of a prospective date... but that's what these two are best at: calling each other out and stewing in their anger, until they realize they can't live without each other. Molly is a high-powered lawyer who can rock a white pantsuit, while Issa works for a non-profit that helps kids from the "hood." Both women have to navigate being black at work, but not too black, while being independent but not alone. Yes, they spend significant screen time talking about the men in their lives, but what they're really asking is: are these men good enough for us? That's true black girl magic and a welcome addition to TV in 2016.
9. Vanessa in "Atlanta"
The new FX show, "Atlanta" was so surprising, funny, surreal (invisible car) and yet really real (money woes). A whole lot of the realness came from storylines with the Vanessa (aka Van) character played by Zazie Beetz. She's the only woman lead in a show that has more episodes with the three men characters, but she's equally as valuable. And she plays a role that, in other hands, could come off as a nag or the cliched ball-and-chain-type girlfriend, but she is neither. She's empowered, wise, and she's good mom. And in episode 6, which is entirely about her, she slays the screen with a panicked montage of her trying to outwit a drug test by using urine she squeezed from her daughter's diapers. It's cringe-making and priceless.
10. Kate McKinnon playing piano and singing "Hallelujah" on "SNL"
All year long, Kate McKinnon played Hillary Clinton on "Saturday Night Live." She even played Hillary Clinton opposite Hillary Clinton. McKinnon told The Frame this year, "I can't do an impression of someone I don't like." And it's a good thing she liked Clinton, because she played her a lot. Every Saturday after a debate, McKinnon confronted a version of Bernie or Trump. And when the real Clinton lost the election, there was a question of how "SNL" would handle it. But then singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died — and in that sorrow was opportunity. McKinnon took to the grand piano in full Hillary pantsuit and hairdo to sing Cohen's "Hallelujah." It wasn't clear at first if she was playing the Hillary character, but then she gave a wink to the audience and you knew it was her. She ended with "I'm not giving up and neither should you. Live from New York, it's Saturday night."