On television, where character arcs have seasons to develop, antiheroes often make for the most fascinating characters. Generally, only male actors have the chance to play those roles, some of the best examples being Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller in “Sons of Anarchy,” Bryan Cranston as Walter White in “Breaking Bad” and Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle in “True Detective.”
Despite the recent success of “How to Get Away with Murder,” which features Viola Davis as fiery defense attorney Annalise Keating, the current disparity of flawed yet sympathetic females on television is large.
Glenn Close began a brief trend of antiheroines as corrupt litigator Patty Hewes on “Damages,” and Mary Louise Parker, as business-savvy pot dealer Nancy Botwin, followed closely behind in the later seasons of “Weeds.” But those acclaimed TV shows have since stopped airing, and now there are none to fill the lack of antiheroines.
Hopefully there will be more showrunners in the near future, whether female or male, that create new, unique antiheroes for the small screen. There is a variety of complex supporting or co-leading female characters on television, like Keri Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings on “The Americans,” Lizzy Caplan’s Virginia Johnson on “Masters of Sex” and Elizabeth Moss’ Peggy Olsen on “Mad Men.” The new season of “True Detective” may feature a female lead with her own dark past as a private detective, and shows like “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” both produced by Shonda Rhimes, are still strong in the ratings as of late.
Based on the large following of Rhimes’ shows, it is clear that the public wants to see just as many female antiheroines as male antiheroes. It is just a matter of time before other writers follow suit.
A version of this article appeared in the Fall 2014 Arts Issue. Email Zack Grullon at [email protected]