The iconic 00s female TV characters who changed the way women are written now

12 October 2018, 17:05

Veronica Mars, Cristina Yang, Piper Halliwell
Picture: UPN/ABC/WB
Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

Characters who weren't afraid to go against type, buck stereotypes, and be different.

With plans for a “Veronica Mars” revival and a “Buffy” reboot in the works, it’s clear that iconic female 2000s TV characters still manage to capture the imagination of television studios and streaming platforms.

Today it seems like all the best television characters are women. Jane Villanueva on Jane The Virgin, Claire Underwood on House of Cards, and all the women from Handmaid’s Tale frequently impress and viewers with their strength, intelligence, and willpower.

As a person who still feels like certain TV characters are my best friends, I looked forward to watching the female characters in the 2000s who defined the decade and exemplified what it meant to be willful, defiant, and resourceful.

Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars, the teenage private detective, was a revelation. Her character was confident, highly resourceful, and incredibly witty. At 12, I wanted to dress like her, talk like her, and be as snarky and moody as she was. I mean, Veronica Mars tased someone in the pilot episode. Veronica Mars also had trauma which made her complex and often fearless, to a fault.

One of the best parts about her character was that she really was a detective. It wasn’t a not-really-a-job kind of job that writers give characters to make them seem interesting. Much of the series saw her tailing bad guys, solving mysteries, and going undercover

Kristen Bell’s portrayal of a teen PI still holds up, even 14 years later. So much so, that it somehow makes perfect sense that she’s returned to play the character all grown up.


Dr. Cristina Yang

Cristina Yang is a character that showed a generation of women like me that you didn’t have to be warm or polite at work. You just had to be effective and focused. Cristina was an overachiever who didn’t struggle with the cliched dilemma of how to “have it all” as a working woman.

She didn’t want children or a nuclear family. She wanted to be the best and Sandra Oh’s portrayal of that was nuanced and deeply compelling to watch.



There’s no getting into iconic 90s/00s TV characters without talking about Buffy. The character of Buffy subverted previous ideas about what women could and couldn’t do in the paranormal genre. Buffy’s influence cannot be overstated, especially as a show that put a smart, competent, and, in many ways, normal teenage girl front and centre.



The tail end of the 1990s saw many female TV characters take on the misfit archetype. Daria, a girl who despised her classmates, didn’t fit in with her own family, and had exactly one (1) friend was somehow deeply relatable, amid other bitter, resentful portrayals of “the teenage outcast”.

Daria was another character who wasn’t overly concerned with politeness or warmth. She spoke in a monotone voice that I deeply related to as a glib child. Years later, I would revisit Daria during a particularly lonely time in my life. Strangely enough, this profile of a teenage outsider made me feel seen in a way that not many characters (especially animated ones) have.


Lane Kim

Gilmore Girls was a show that managed to be mainly about strong women. As the daughter of religious immigrant parents, watching Lane Kim hide her CDs under the floorboards, change her outfits upon arriving at school, and rebel in this uniquely contextualised way helped me see myself on the show.

Lane was obsessed with music and popular culture, making her the ultimate 2000s fangirl. In a culture that often doesn’t take teenage fandom seriously, Keiko Agena’s portrayal of the character still feels deeply relatable.


Piper Halliwell

When it comes to strong women on 2000s TV, Charmed carefully carved out its own lane, trailblazing and pioneering in the supernatural genre. Holly Marie Combs played a woman who started out as a chef, became a club owner, then a full time witch, and eventually a mother.

Piper Halliwell had Big Witch Energy but still represented a person who was often allowed to be lost in their own grief and anger in a really authentically human way.


From the representation of teenage girls with agency, to the way we see women in the workplace, there's no doubt that these iconic 2000s characters helped to colour how women are written on TV now.

Riverdale's Betty Cooper solving multiple murder mysteries essentially on her own speaks to the competency we now afford teenage female characters on television. Similarly, Holly Marie Combs' unbeatable and warrior-like portrayal of Piper Halliwell certainly paved the way for the Charmed reboot heading to the CW later this month.

Our TV landscape is now full of female characters who are presidents, vice presidents, DC fixers, and high powered attorneys. It's also full of characters as ambitious as Cristina Yang, resourceful as Veronica Mars and bad ass as Buffy.