Earlier this week, I was struck by how Taylor Swift described her Reputation era to Time: as “a goth-punk moment of female rage at being gaslit by an entire social structure.” Personally, I still think the album is firmly in pop territory, but Swift’s take made me think about how women’s anger has been represented in our culture, and especially on TV.
There are many examples of female rage in television history, and yes, a lot of them are not great. Often, they’re rooted in gendered and racial stereotypes — think of the “angry Black woman” and “crazy ex-girlfriend” characters who are actually perfectly sane, if appropriately upset. But recently, more and more shows are probing this theme in fascinating (if imperfect) ways, from Yellowjackets and Bad Sisters to Swarm.
For this week’s column, I’m highlighting three shows that exemplify female rage, each from a different genre: dark comedy, melodrama, and science fiction.
Something New: Fargo Season 5
Inspired by the Coen Brothers’ 1966 film, the anthology series Fargo tells a different crime story every season, and its latest installment might be the show’s strongest yet. Season 5 follows Dot Lyon (Juno Temple), whose quiet life with her adoring husband Wayne Lyon (David Rysdahl) and their daughter is violently disrupted by her abusive ex, Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm).
Roy, a tyrannical North Dakota sheriff and preacher, sends his son Gator (Joe Keery) with some cronies to kidnap Dot. The unassuming housewife proves more than capable of protecting herself, though — all while managing her gun-toting, icy billionaire of a mother-in-law, Lorraine Lyon (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
Dot does her best to remain “Minnesota nice,” but each time someone tests her limits, her simmering anger inches toward a boiling point.
How to watch: Fargo Season 5 releases a new episode every Tuesday on FX and Hulu.
Something Old: Desperate Housewives
When Desperate Housewives premiered in 2004, it put a refreshing spin on guilty pleasure TV, following brilliantly casted set of housewives (Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, and Nicolette Sheridan) as they dealt with everything from quotidian family problems to blackmail, scandal, and murder.
Creator Marc Cherry considered the show a satire, but it’s more camp than anything else, with storylines that get wilder every season. Remember when a tornado hit Wisteria Lane and conveniently killed Gaby’s second husband Victor, clearing the way for her to get back with her first husband?
As over-the-top as the show is, though, the women remain fully realized characters — always allowed to be angry, act petty, and fight.
Something Out Of The Blue: Silo
Based on Hugh Howey’s Wool books, Apple TV+’s Silo is a mystery box thriller that slowly unravels its secrets throughout its first season.
The pilot episode acts as a prologue of sorts, and centers on Allison (Rashida Jones) and her husband Sheriff Holston Becker (David Oyelowo). They live in a giant silo, which supports a 10,000-person community living underground to escape the Earth’s toxic fumes. The silo provides more than just shelter from the apocalypse, though: It’s a self-sufficient police state, in which individual rights are widely curtailed. As Allison struggles to get pregnant — even though she’s supposedly been “cleared” to have a baby — she begins to suspect that all my not be as it seems. By making her husband and others question the history and truths they’ve been fed, she cracks open the story.
Then, from the second episode on, the series follows reluctant leader Juliette (Rebecca Ferguson) as she seeks her own answers.
How to watch: Silo is streaming on Apple TV+.