As 2015 comes to a close, it’s easy to look back on the year’s top news stories and feel overwhelmed with the state of current events. But it's also important to take stock in the year you had personally and see how you have grown, to account for the positive news you have read, and to look towards entertainment for inspiration — yes, entertainment. Sometimes pop culture is overlooked when it comes to important lessons, but the most empowering TV moments of 2015 should prove why that's such a mistake.
This was a huge year for seeing diverse, feminist, and admirable characters on television. From the real life stories that hit our small screens to the strong characters that acted in ways we could only try to emulate, there was a lot we could learn from television this year about how to treat others, and even how to treat ourselves (though not in the way Donna and Tom are so fond of on Parks and Rec).
Here are the TV moments from 2015 that stood out for encouraging viewers to be better people and to treat others with the kindness and respect they deserve, from the funny, to the sad, to the real.
1. Mayor Garry/Jerry/Larry Gergich On Parks And Rec
Throughout the series, Jerry went through a lot — people picked on him and he often would hurt or embarrass himself out of clumsiness. But in the flash-forward finale season, Parks and Rec used the strongest tool in its belt to remedy this: heart. Everyone’s hard work paid off and characters all went on to lead exemplary lives, including the underdog, Garry... Jerry? Always one to keep a positive attitude, Garry has a beautiful family, lives a long, happy life, and is mayor of a town he holds dear. We would all be fortunate to pull a page from Garry’s book — just hopefully not the page with the fart attack.
2. Master Of None’s Diverse Cast
Finally. Watching this Netflix series was a breath of fresh air. Not only did it capture what it's really like to navigate millennial life with thoughtful, relatable commentary (like recognizing parental sacrifices, modern-day sexism, and technology), but it did so while also depicting a relatable, diverse group of friends. Hopefully, this moment inspired TV networks to follow suit.
3. Viola Davis’ Emmy Win & Speech
Viola Davis became the first black woman to win the Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series Emmy for her role on How to Get Away with Murder. Her speech was empowering, inspiring, and called for more diversity in entertainment.
The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.
4. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Theme Song
If this song isn’t uplifting, fun, and catchy, I don’t know what is! The song and the series both share an inspiring message about women’s strength and moving forward after abuse or tragedy to live a fulfilled life. Miraculously, the show and theme song are also so upbeat and hilarious, the darker subject matter doesn’t overwhelm viewers.
5. Peggy’s Strut On Mad Men
This may be the coolest moment for a woman on television that I have ever seen. Peggy is moving on to bigger and better things, she’s breaking down barriers left and right, and she is owning it. From the cigarette, to the outwardly facing pornographic painting, to her cool, sunglass-adorned walk, Peggy is not looking back, just looking toward her future. YAAAS QUEEN.
6. Jane The Virgin’s Fearlessness
I honestly don’t know what you are doing with your life if you aren’t watching Jane the Virgin. The show is so much fun, but more importantly, it lets a young woman make the choices that empower her to live the life she wants to lead. I know this may seem counterintuitive given the accidental insemination, but from that point forward, Jane has called all the shots. She chose to have the baby, she chose the risky career option, and she chose to continue her education as a new mom. Jane teaches us to be more fearless in our own big decisions.
7. Inside Amy Schumer's Apology Sketch
As a woman, this skit is almost painful to watch, because I have been there, and I think many others have as well. Women are taught to apologize for things that are outside of our control, let others take command of the conversation, and apologize for our accomplishments. After seeing this clip, I hope we were all inspired to take back the conversation and show pride in our work.
8. I Am Cait
Through her interview with Diane Sawyer in which she came out as transgender, her historic Vanity Fair cover, and her reality series I Am Cait, Caitlyn Jenner has become an important voice for the trans community and contributed to a conversation about what it’s like to be trans in 2015. Though Jenner has caused some controversy within the trans community, she hasn’t shied away from telling her story with real emotion or helping to show others' experiences, which has inspired important dialogues.
9. Multiple Female Superheroes
Superheroes have flown — faster than a speeding bullet — through the modern television glass ceiling, thanks to Supergirl, Jessica Jones, and Agent Carter, all of which premiered in 2015.
10. Broad City's Depiction Of Friendship
Abbi and Ilana teach viewers that is important to have someone in your life with whom you can be authentically, unapologetically you. You get each other and together you feel invincible. Be the Abbi to someone’s Ilana. And remember, you don’t need to smile for anyone but each other.
11. Shoshanna's Lean In Moment On Girls
A lean in moment can happen when you are unemployed and/or out-of-the-office, you don't have to be a boss to become one. If you're Shoshanna Shapiro, your moment happened at Grumpy's after closing. When Shoshanna goes there to discuss her job offer in Japan/new boyfriend with Ray, she encounters his boss Hermie (Colin Quinn), who dispenses some excellent words of wisdom about Shoshanna's career making moment.
"I’m gonna tell you something. Be the walker, not the dog. This is your 'lean in' moment. This is your moment to lean in. You don’t want to be dependent on some guy, some nerd. Don’t give the power to your partner. Grab a seat at the table and lean the f*ck in. And if this guy’s worth his salt, he’ll be waiting for you at the airport when you return. This is for you, taking what’s yours. Attainment. Achievement. This is your time to grasp your destiny."
All of these are great lessons to carry into 2016, a year that hopefully, will teach us even more through television.
Images: Netflix; Giphy (4)