Stream Queens 

Netflix bets on the women—and wins—with a slew of new shows

The wonderful women of Netflix (L-R): Michaela Coel, Chewing Gum; Susan Wokoma and Cara Theobold, Crazyhead; Colleen Ballinger, Haters Back Off!; and Brit Marling, The OA.

Netflix

The wonderful women of Netflix (L-R): Michaela Coel, Chewing Gum; Susan Wokoma and Cara Theobold, Crazyhead; Colleen Ballinger, Haters Back Off!; and Brit Marling, The OA.

Too often, a journalist hoping to spark an incendiary conversation with a female actress, director or writer will ask an unanswerable question: "Do you think women are as funny or as talented as men?" When tossed this trite turd, some of the brightest, most creative and, clearly, most patient women in film and television valiantly proffer a response that touches on the differences between men and women, or simply say, "Yes," in a tone that clearly says, "Duh, dummy."

If you appreciate a strong female-centric story and plan to spend some time this holiday season binge-watching TV in the comfort of your home (and pajamas), here's a short list of some provocative new shows by and starring women on Netflix right now. Girl power!

Chewing Gum

From the mind of actress, playwright, poet and singer-songwriter Michaela Coel comes the British comedy Chewing Gum. Coel, who also wrote the series, stars as Tracey Gordon, a 24-year-old virtuous virgin who lives in an uber Christian home with her evangelizing mother and equally repressed younger sister Cynthia, played brilliantly by Susan Wokoma (see below). Tracey wants to be more worldly and to have sex. She really wants to have sex. Mostly, she just wants to have sex. Tracey is so funny, awkward and naive, and yet so insightful at times, it's no surprise Coel is an award-winning actress. Plus, she composed the series soundtrack.

Crazyhead

Misfits creator Howard Overman oversees this British horror-comedy starring Cara Theobold of Downton Abbey and Susan Wokoma from Chewing Gum as friends and "seers," meaning they have a special ability to recognize when someone has been possessed by a demon—and then slay the shit out of them. Telegraph.co.uk called it "Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with bad language and a down-to-earth attitude to sex and romance."

Haters Back Off!

The delusional narcissist is not a new TV trope (Eastbound and Down, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and, while it can be painful to watch characters who are utterly unaware of how their actions affect those around them, when they do finally see themselves through the eyes of others and the weight of fremdschämen (roughly translated from German as "being embarrassed for someone else") is lifted from your shoulders, the relief is like frolicking through a field of bubbles.

The offbeat comedy drama Haters, written by and starring actress, comedian, singer-songwriter and YouTuber Colleen Ballinger covers fairly well-trod ground.

Miranda Sings (Ballinger) is full of grandeur but doesn't have the talent or wits to back it up. She thinks she is incredible and won't or can't hear anything to the contrary. Her sister actually is smart and super talented but nobody notices, and all she wants is to get away; her frail hypochondriac mother (played by Angela Kinsey of The Office) dotes on her to the detriment of the whole family; and her creepy uncle (Steve Little from Eastbound and Down) is a coattail-clinger, hoping his star rises with hers.

Haters is pretty cringey, with everything from unrequited love to sabotage to a misunderstood marriage proposal, but Ballinger does Miranda magnificently, making her easy to hate and, eventually, easy to love.

The OA

Angelic-looking American actress, screenwriter and producer Brit Marling wrote and stars in this sleeper hit from Netflix. The sci-fi drama dropped with little to no fanfare, taking everyone by surprise and causing more than one reviewer to recast his or her Top 10 shows of 2016.

Marling plays the titular role in The OA, a young woman formerly known as Prairie, who was formerly known as Nina, and whose acronym stands for Original Angel.

The 21-year-old Prairie, who is blind, disappears one day, returning seven years later with a new name, new scars on her back and her sight returned. She talks little of her ordeal, only to film video messages for someone named Homer, leaving her parents and their neighbors convinced her mind is somehow scarred, too. As the OA begins to confide in a small group of high-schoolers, her twisted tale of torture and survival plays out in flashback.

Marling is hypnotic in The OA, which is touted as sci-fi but the story is far more metaphysical and otherworldly. It's less scientific and more spiritual (spi-fi? Yes.) The show has been polarizing, with some calling it hokey, some feeling drained and unsatisfied, and others (like yours truly), dissolving into a crying mess.

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