Misunderstood Women: TV Characters Who Faced Unjust Criticism

Spoilers

What is it about a woman in charge that brings out the critics?

No matter the genre, you can always find a female lead character that gets a strong negative audience response. Call it a hot take, but we think a lot of those women deserved better than the treatment they got.

Let’s be real; some of these characters (Sansa Stark, anyone?) are children. How terrible could they really be?

These unpopular ladies definitely deserved better from fans, and we’re prepared to die on that hill.

Here’s why we’ll stan these women ’til the end, even if we’re the only ones.

Maggie Pierce: Grey’s Anatomy

The condemnation thrown at Maggie Pierce was always over the top, especially considering she’s a young, gifted, Black surgeon with a complicated past whose unrelenting optimism should have charmed viewers.

It’s totally understandable that folks didn’t love the Ellis-Richard-love-child storyline she brought with her to Grey’s Anatomy, but she didn’t deserve to be trashed the way she was.

Maggie got twisted up in some weird situations on the show, like that time when she dated her stepbrother (we’re not denying that her love connection with Jackson Avery was … odd).

But that doesn’t discount the fact that Maggie was brilliant, kind, and deserving of respect, and it’s disappointing that so few people could see that.

Lorelai Gilmore: Gilmore Girls

Lorelai Gilmore was the quick-witted, fast-talking young mom of teen Rory. She came from old money but left behind her parents’ lavish lifestyle when she gave birth to Rory as a teenager.

Could she be a little immature? Sure. Did she occasionally handle a situation poorly? Absolutely. Could she be a little self-absorbed? Maybe.

But we have to remember that Lorelai essentially raised herself after Rory was born. She made a way for them without her parents’ money, and that’s no small task.

It’s true that she was flawed, but who isn’t? Lorelai deserved to be appreciated for her tenacity as a single mom who was just doing her best.

Mellie Grant: Scandal

We get it; Mellie was complicated. Especially in early seasons of Scandal, we’re given little to work with. She’s written to be unlikable, so we’ll root for Fitz and Olivia. But Mellie deserved better.

Mellie went through hell in more ways than one, not the least of which was her husband — the President of the United States, mind you — constantly cheating on her right under her nose.

Add in the fact that all along, she made sacrifice after sacrifice to support her husband’s career while he never so much as said thank you, and it’s hard not to forgive her for being a little rude.

Pam Beesly: The Office

Sure, Pam could be a little boring. And the whole thing with Brian the cameraman was a little — okay, a lot — problematic.

But realistically, the men of The Office, especially Roy, Jim, and Michael, put a lot of pressure on Pam to be perfect.

The Pam and Jim love story might go down in history as one of TV’s favorite ships, but frankly, Pam was too good for Jim.

That’s right, we went there.

Skyler White: Breaking Bad

Imagine hating on a woman who was ultimately a victim trying to protect her loved ones — while simultaneously giving a pass to men committing serious crimes.

It couldn’t be us.

Fans despised Skyler White for being a so-called bully and a nag and for holding Walter back on Breaking Bad. But was she really any of those things?

Or was she just a mom in a desperate situation trying to do right by her kids?

Nancy Wheeler: Stranger Things

Our first of several children on the list is Nancy Wheeler, big sister to Mike in the critically acclaimed Netflix hit Stranger Things.

Nancy was a high school student who wanted to be a journalist and spent her time working on the school paper.

Some Stranger Things fans considered Nancy to be stuck-up and selfish, and she was often called annoying in episodic reviews.

But let’s be real — she was a teenager. Since when do we expect perfection from teenagers? Nancy lost her best friend and was caught up in otherworldly drama. She gets a pass.

Sansa Stark: Game of Thrones

Another child that fans detested was Sansa Stark, the eldest daughter of Ned and Cat Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Fans called Sansa whiny, annoying, bratty, and selfish, among other (worse) things, while she was portraying a literal child who experienced brutal hardships and loss.

The things Sansa went through on the show are unimaginable, and not just because there were occasionally dragons involved.

She deserved to be given grace by audiences instead of being berated for her human reactions to hard things.

Rachel Berry: Glee

Oh, Rachel. She could be a lot to handle, to be sure. But again, we’re talking about a teenager here. And honestly, when boys are ambitious and confident, they’re praised for it.

Girls, on the other hand…

Anyway, Rachel Berry was a victim of bullying on Glee, both at school and online. She was constantly being told to make herself smaller, to make room for other people in the spotlight, and to keep her opinions to herself.

Rachel deserved better, and she should never have been ripped apart by fans for being an ambitious, unapologetic teen girl.

Ginny Miller: Ginny & Georgia

Ginny & Georgia‘s titular Ginny Miller gets the “annoying girl” treatment, too, and we’re tired of it.

It’s true; she can be cruel to her mom (what teenager isn’t sometimes?) and isn’t always the best friend of her peers.

But what she lacks in maturity, she makes up for in heart, and at her core, she wants to do the right thing and be a good person.

Carole Baskin: Tiger King

This one might ruffle some feathers, but that’s okay. Carole Baskin (a real woman, not a character, it should be noted) was and is widely despised after fans sided with Joe Exotic in the pandemic-era Netflix reality docu-series Tiger King.

Joe Exotic, who is currently in prison, claims Carole killed her first husband.

Despite the accusations being baseless, much of the world was willing to side with Joe anyway, which is astounding.

Carole was the butt of countless jokes, the subject of memes and TikTok songs, and was turned into a character for SNL. The treatment she got was totally unfair and rooted in misogyny.

Janice Hosenstein: Friends

It may be a bit of a stretch to consider Janice a lead character, but we couldn’t leave her out here.

She was a recurring character throughout the entire run of Friends: Chandler Bing’s energetic ex-girlfriend, who always seemed to find her way back into his life.

For the most part, fans seemed to focus on jokes directed at Janice’s voice and laugh. To that, we say, grow up, friends.

People found her annoying, but she really loved Chandler and deserved way better treatment than he (and his fans) treated her.

Elena Gilbert: The Vampire Diaries

Another day, another child character gets trashed on the internet. Sigh.

As a supernatural fantasy show, The Vampire Diaries had a lot of world-building and a lot of information for the characters to try to keep up with.

Elena, who was caught in a love triangle between the Salvatore brothers, was loathed by fans for being selfish and for frequently getting herself into dangerous situations.

But as we’ve mentioned, teenagers are supposed to be selfish, and they’re not exactly known for being great decision-makers.

Frankly, Elena got the rage that the men on the show deserved but never got.

Kate Austen: Lost

Poor Kate. A wanted criminal with a heart of gold, Kate Austen saw the plane crash as her chance to get a fresh start.

Fans considered Kate to be self-serving, but was she really? Or was it just self-preservation? Where is the line, people?

Folks don’t tend to love women who are caught in the middle of love triangles, and Kate’s back and forth between Jack and Sawyer was a big source of annoyance for Lost fans.

Kate really deserved the benefit of the doubt after everything she went through and everything she did to try to save the group, but instead, she was met with disdain.

Britta Perry: Community

Britta might have been a little out of touch; we’ll give you that. But all the things that Community stans abhorred about Britta were things that actually made her great.

She was passionate, especially about social justice. She cared deeply about her friends, even when they treated her like a joke (looking at you, Jeff Winger).

People thought of Britta as shrill and unlikable, but she was really just a normal twenty-something trying to find her way in a harsh world.

Lori Grimes: The Walking Dead

Rounding off our list is Lori Grimes, Rick’s widely resented wife, girlfriend of Shane, and mom of Carl and Judith.

Many The Walking Dead viewers thought of Lori as unfaithful, even though she only started a relationship with Shane after being convinced of Rick’s death.

Fans also called her useless and annoying and considered her a liability throughout her pregnancy. (Rude.)

In a zombie apocalypse, it seems misogyny is alive and well, given the vitriol spewed at poor Lori, who was doing her best to survive.

That’s all for now, folks.

Which of TV’s women do you think have been treated unfairly?

Sound off in the comments with any leading ladies you’d add to this list!

Haley Whitmire White is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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