A Twitter user with a verified blue checkmark — and a man who works as an advisor to Senate Republicans — caught some heat on the platform this week when he posted a list of the “best TV characters in the last 20 years.” The list included a lot of the expected names from the “Peak TV” era — Breaking Bad‘s Walter White in the No. 1 spot, followed by The Wire‘s Omar Little, Tony Soprano of The Sopranos, Seinfeld‘s Cosmo Kramer, The Office‘s Michael Scott, Game of Thrones‘ Tyrion Lannister, and 24‘s Jack Bauer.
Quickly, a lot of respondents noticed something about the list, which has since been deleted, per this tweet — it included no female characters. The list was made and posted by Matt Whitlock, a longtime staffer for now-retired senator Orrin Hatch, who now works for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Ironically, the longtime Republican staffer included a fictional Democratic staffer, The West Wing‘s Josh Lyman, on his list.
In response, numerous Twitter users began posting their own lists of the best TV characters, many of which were entirely female. Writer Dana Schwartz put out a list on Twitter that included Fleabag, Rebecca Bunch (from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), the two leads on Killing Eve, Midge Maisel, and Veep‘s Selina Meyer.
TV critic Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone put out a series of tweets, each of them listing 10 female characters across the last two decades of television, and he ultimately listed more than 100 names of characters. Other names included on many of the lists that began to populate Twitter were Carmela Soprano, The Comeback‘s Valerie Cherish, The Americans‘ Elizabeth Jennings, Lindsey and Gretchen from You’re The Worst, and Cameron Howe from Halt and Catch Fire.
these aren't even the best TV characters on their individual shows pic.twitter.com/OotrXNCvx4
— Anna Swartz (@Anna_Snackz) April 10, 2019
Others responded either with mixed-gender lists, lists on Twitter that consisted entirely of different incarnations of Doctor Who, and tweets mocking the very idea of arbitrary list-making altogether.
It is true that the modern era of television, as pointed out in books like Brett Martin’s Difficult Men, has been disproportionately focused on the stories of male antiheroes, with The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and numerous other shows following that template. But that’s clearly not the only way to produce great television, and as demonstrated by the TV watchers of Twitter, there are plenty of non-male examples of fascinating, memorable and important characters.
In addition, Seinfeld went off the air more than 20 years ago, meaning Kramer probably doesn’t belong on a “last 20 years” list.