11 Great Female TV Characters Of The '00s Who Helped Define The Decade

Watching TV in the '00s was radically different than watching TV in the '90s. The time when everyone tuned in live to TV shows was quickly coming to an end, and viewers were watching all kinds of different series. The Golden Age of TV had arrived, but male antiheroes reigned supreme. Even as the medium existed in a state of largely male-dominated flux, some truly amazing female characters emerged. These female TV characters defined the '00s and made the wealth of awesome ladies currently on TV, from Homeland's Carrie to Scandal's Olivia to The Mindy Project's Mindy, possible.

I already counted down the most influential female characters of the '90s, so if you are looking for Buffy, Scully, or any other characters who spanned both decades, they are probably on that list, especially if they wielded more influence in the '90s. This list is for all the ladies who ushered in the new millennium. They starred in groundbreaking comedies, they led episodes of gone-too-soon cult TV shows, they were sci-fi heroes, and divisive wives. These were the first characters you watched through the eyes of young adulthood, and the impressions they made will last a lifetime not only on the history of TV, but on you as well.

These 11 characters were, for lack of a better word, epic.

1. Liz Lemon, 30 Rock (2006-2013)

Where would the world be without Liz Lemon and Tina Fey? Liz made being nerdy cool thanks to her love of Star Wars, comedy writing, and her interest in night cheese. During her time on television, Liz dealt with the age old question of "can a woman have it all" (you know, a man and a sandwich), what it feels like to be called the "c" word, how to be BFFs with your boss, and how to generally be an inspiration to women everywhere by making women finally feel normal in all of their weird and wonderful glory.

2. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

It's hard to imagine a time when the character of Starbuck wasn't a smartass, tough-as-nails, cigar smoking flygirl. Any dissent over the '70s character being gender-swapped all but disappeared the moment Katee Sackhoff appeared onscreen. Kara Thrace flipped every idea about femininity on its head to give the world the most heroic, challenging character of the decade.

3. Pam Beesly, The Office (2005-2013)

The idea that a woman on TV has to physically kick butt or have an extraordinary job to be interesting was dispelled quite handily by Pam. The secretary at Dunder-Mifflin, Pam did not lead a TV-genic life. Instead, she was an extraordinarily human character whose journey captured the imagination of a generation. Whether she was finally letting go of Roy, going to art school, or marrying Jim, Pam made the mundane captivating. Also, one time she walked on fire.

4. Lorelai & Rory Gilmore, Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)

Not only would the world have been a much less happy place without the Gilmore Girls, television would be lost without Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. The fast-talking mother/daughter duo were ultra-literate, pop culture savvy women who were all about cultivating positive relationships with other women. The show has been off the air for eight years and it is still a hot topic among television fans. No other character has come along to match the wit and wisdom of the Gilmores, proving that these ladies were two of a kind.

5. Willow Rosenberg, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

The '90s belonged to Buffy, but the early '00s were all Willow. As the witch came into her powers and came out as a lesbian she became an icon for the LBQT community. Willow's strength gave so many real people strength, she became much more than a character. Though she grappled with going to the dark side after her girlfriend Tara's death, Willow ultimately emerged as the series' strongest and most resilient character.

6. Cristina Yang, Grey's Anatomy (2005-Present)

Unapologetically ambitious, logical, and straightforward, Cristina was the best thing about Grey's from the start. The motorcycle riding badass of an intern rose through the ranks at a steady pace. Despite being against the idea that women have to be warm and fuzzy, Cristina was a caring friend, girlfriend, and doctor. She proved women on TV don't have to be nice to be good people.

7. Veronica Mars, Veronica Mars (2004-2007)

The teen sleuth was the very definition of cool, but nothing about her life was easy. Veronica presented a deeply imperfect high school experience, one where rape, death, and abandonment plagued her. Female detectives rarely, if ever, existed in noir, but Veronica made the genre a whole lot more interesting with her quips, fortitude, and wise-beyond-her-years monologues. She was the ultimate survivor.

8. Carmela Soprano, The Sopranos (1999-2007)

Carmela was the first of a long line of antiheroes' wives who was viewed as something of a killjoy for not endorsing her husband's violent lifestyle. In truth, Carmela was a blockbuster role for Edie Falco (and she has the Emmys to prove it) that allowed her to explore a number of difficult subjects, but none more difficult than the question of why a woman would stay with a man like Tony. The answer wasn't easy or perfect, but it made Carmela the template for Skyler White, Rita Bennent, and many other TV wives who came after her.

9. Donna Noble, Doctor Who (2005-Present)

Donna was only the Doctor's companion for one sublime, heartbreaking season, but the impression she made was immeasurable. A woman who saw herself as a temp who let life pass her by not only saw the world, she saved it, proving how an ordinary person can be the most important person in the world.

10. Daisy Steiner, Spaced (1999-2001)

No character has ever captured being an aimless twenty-something as accurately as Daisy. No, not everyone has seen Spaced, but everyone who has was in awe of Daisy, one of the few female characters to prove women can be stuck in a state of blissful arrested development too.

11. Sydney Bristow, Alias (2001-2006)

This list could not be complete without the woman who ushered the decade in with a bang. From the moment Sydney appeared on-screen, she redefined what a spy was supposed to look like. She was smart, fearless, dangerous, and vulnerable. She was a hero in every sense of the word.

These are just 11 of the amazing women that made the '00s such a thrilling time to be a television fan. While there are lots of other characters who could also have landed on this list, I think these ladies did more to change the face of TV than anyone else in the era. They made TV safe for women to be rude, imperfect, and interesting, and for that they should be celebrated.

Images: Warner Bros. TV; Giphy (10); frozensecond/Tumblr