Daria, Buffy, Lisa Simpson… These fictional characters who introduced feminism to pop culture


Sarcastic, intelligent and independent, the character of Daria valued the image of feminism, 20 years back. You may remember Daria, the heroine of the eponymous series broadcast on MTV in the 90s. Created by Susie Lewis Lynn and Glenn Eichler, the character of Daria originally appeared in the animated series Beavis & Butte -Head, before becoming the central subject of his own series.

Rebellious and casual, the little brunette with glasses quickly became a reference in underground culture. In a time popular with teenage girls, Daria was the non-conformist and independent role model they could identify with, at a time when feminism was not yet a hot topic. From season to season, the identity of this anti-heroine is rooted in a desire to denounce female stereotypes and American society during the grunge years. The series is therefore no longer just entertainment, but a real fight against inequality and sexism. Each character in the series wanted to defend or denounce something. For example, the stereotypical image of the flirtatious and somewhat silly woman was represented by Quinn, Daria’s sister, who was more concerned with her love affairs and her appearance than with her studies. The brilliant Jodie, who served as a model for young black women and helped to highlight the injustices and racism that young African-Americans suffered, and still suffer. Jane, Daria’s best friend, a misunderstood and jaded artist, also adept at sarcasm and marginality. And of course, Daria, represented as the brainy and unpopular girl who spends a lot of time analyzing her family and the world around her, only to come out of it more disillusioned. If many subjects such as friendship, love or family problems are treated in the series, it is indeed this desire for the emancipation of women and rebellion that will have marked the spirits.

Buffy Summers

It was in 1998 that the hit series Buffy the Vampire Slayer landed on the small French screen. This mixture of action and supernatural very quickly conquered the public and the series was renewed for 7 seasons. What makes the success of the show is first of all its heroine, Buffy Summers interpreted by Sarah Michel Gellar. A young high school girl at first sight quite lambda, except that she is actually a vampire slayer, just that. Buffy the Vampire Slayer then reverses the codes of the time and makes its main female character a brave and badass monster hunter. We are therefore far from the stereotype of the young blonde woman who is a little submissive and afraid, and that was exactly the goal sought by Joss Whedon, creator of the series.

Indeed, Whedon has several times explained about the series by saying that he wants a change in the popular culture of the time and the highlighting of another image of women. Buffy shouldn’t just be a main character, she should be a true heroine, a strong, modern woman who doesn’t need a man to come to her aid.

For 144 episodes, the series places women in power and Buffy is not the only one to become a role model for young teenage girls. Willow, her best witch friend, played by Alyson Hannigan, also plays an important role in this representation of feminism and once again upsets the codes during her romantic relationship with Tara, a woman. If the subject of homosexuality was very little treated on screen in the 90s, this love story is represented in the series in a totally natural and uninhibited way.

Whether they are vampires, slayers, witches or mere mortals, women are at the heart of the series and are portrayed as powerful and independent, which obviously contributed to the success of the series.

Also to discover:Does feminism make you happy?

The Halliwell sisters

After the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the USA, the channel Warner Bros. wants to ride this wave and create a new supernatural series for teenagers. Charmed was born in October 1998. Once again, women are the main characters of the series. Three sisters, and more precisely, three witches. Abandoned by their father, and brought up by their grandmother who constantly warned them against men, the Halliwell sisters each have a particularity and a different personality, which allows the adolescent girls of the time to be able to identify to them. In the same spirit as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Piper, Phoebe, Prue -and later Paige- want to be modern women, with their share of personal worries and love affairs, facing supernatural and fantastical problems. They must then reconcile their personal life with learning their powers, while protecting the city from the forces of evil, talk about a mental load! With Charmed, witches are no longer represented as evil beings to be burned at the stake, but as sympathetic young women who use their powers for good and fight demons.

What makes the series special is that it highlights a trio of heroines as clever as they are endearing, who become more powerful when they are together. Linked by the power of three, the Halliwell sisters become a true representation of female solidarity. Between friendships, family and romantic relationships, the series also highlights certain discriminations against women. We then remember the character of Phoebe who, during one episode, suffered moral harassment from her boss at work. The series was a great success in France and the Halliwell sisters became the model for many young women and little girls of the time, now convinced that women were strong enough to get by on their own.

Lisa Simpson

Yes, Lisa Simpson was also involved in introducing feminism into pop culture. Although The Simpsons is intended to be a humorous and satirical series, criticizing American society in the same way as Daria did, but in a much more grotesque spirit, one character stands out from the game. Lisa Simpson, an intelligent and talented young girl, very quickly became one of the emblematic figures of the series through her fights against inequalities and the stereotypes attributed to women. Often at odds with her mother Marge, the young girl notably reproaches her for being too old school and to send back a stereotypical image of the housewife. During the episodes, Lisa has repeatedly put forward her activist side and fought to promote her ideas. Her feminist side has often been highlighted, particularly in the episode ” Lisa vs Malibu Stacy » where the little girl starts a real war against the image of this blonde barbie doll with big breasts. Accusing the toy of inscribing stereotypes in the heads of young girls, who will grow up thinking that Malibu Stacy is the model to follow, she counters this scourge by creating Lisa Lionheart, her own doll. When pressed, Lisa Lionheart recites phrases that encourage self-confidence. Ambitious, she also dreams of being President of the United States in another episode. In summary, this fictional character describes an open-minded young girl who fights to advance the cause of women, and that, at only 8 years old.

Ally McBeal

It is also one of the avant-garde series of the 90s which introduced feminism to the screen. Ally McBeal, a young lawyer in her thirties and a bit blue flower, represents the image of the feminine, free and daring working girl. The series created by David Edward Kelley, is also one of the first to have introduced the subject of sexual harassment at work, 20 years before the Weinstein affair. From the first episodes, this problem, mostly experienced by women, is posed. And when the heroine denounces to her boss the sexual harassment that one of these colleagues inflicts on her, she is simply fired. An injustice that points to the inequality between men and women at work.

Many subjects related to harassment at work and discrimination against women are subsequently treated during the episodes, and crying out for truth, perfectly recount what some women endure, at a time when silence was in order.
The character of Ally McBeal, interpreted by Calista Flockhart, sexually free and in her head, nevertheless suffers from a dictate of society: the fear, at thirty, of not finding true love and of ending up as an old maid. Under cover of humour, the series points the finger at this anxiety of the biological clock from which a large number of women suffer. Caricatural and humorous, Ally McBeal has however highlighted many social issues related to feminism, the sexual independence of women, but also rape and homophobia. It is also one of the rare TV series of the time where we can see a transgender character – Cindy McCauliff, played by Lisa Edelstein.

For information, the series having received a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for the title of best series in the worldcould soon be back with a reboot that is already being repaired in the United States.


A true Chinese warrior, Mulan is arguably the first Disney Princess to represent feminism and female power. The adaptation of the Disney studios of this Chinese legend has made this heroine a true figure of female emancipation. The story, you know it: Going to war to defend her people, Mulan makes herself up as a man and cuts her hair, a symbol representing the femininity of the character, then tries with courage to prove what she is capable of. His strength and tenacity make him an endearing character with whom we like to identify. The young woman demonstrates unfailing determination and overcomes all obstacles. Surrounded by men, she has to act like one so as not to arouse suspicion, and tries somehow to hide her femininity by all means. However, it is clear that the fact that she is a woman in no way hinders the pursuit of her quest, and by accomplishing her exploits, the heroine then proves to the little girls of the time that they are not necessarily weaker than men. Very far from the image of the frail and dependent princess, Mulan breaks the codes of Disney and takes with her the misogynistic clichés which tried to demonstrate that a woman does not know how to fight. like a man.

Daria, Buffy, Lisa Simpson… These fictional characters who introduced feminism to pop culture