The Guardian came out with its top 50 kids’ shows to binge to coincide with Summer last week. We thought it would add to the fun, to think of some of the iconic kids characters we’ve researched over the years and give some reasons why. This week we’re starting off with our top female leads, the girls – the ones that have stood out over the years, and continue to stand the test of time. Next week we’re going to look at the boys (we’ve stayed away from animal leads – sorry Peppa – maybe that’s for another time).
There’s a lot to choose from so we have made two lists: one for cartoons (as listed below) and one for live action (which we’ll be posting tomorrow).
Narrowing each list down to ten was tough – the rise of streaming services like Disney+ gives the best kids’ shows evergreen power, and has led to multi-generational fan bases (which we’ve explored in our fandom work).
The female leads for kids we have chosen are ones that we feel are meaningful, and can say something to the modern viewer. Of course, we would love to know what you think.
Hook’s Iconic Non-Animated Leads
1. Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003)
Sabrina’s trials and tribulations surviving high school, whilst also learning to come to terms with her magic powers continue to resonate with kids of all ages. The show’s cultural references, like Sabrina’s favorite band being ‘No Doubt’, made it feel so contemporary at the time, and this is also what makes the show so nostalgic now. A strong female collective of Sabrina and her aunts, an iconic snapshot of 90s culture, a talking cat … don’t speak – this is a banger
2. The Story of Tracy Beaker (2002-2005)
Not just an awkward, troubled, funny girl making sense of the world but a character who gave looked after kids a voice, and helped position them in the world in a real way … also can’t forget about the absolutely iconic U-rated insults, ‘Bog Off!’
3. Wednesday (2022 – Present)
Despite only having one season released so far, Wednesday has already made an astronomic impact on the young people of today. Wednesday, played by Jenna Ortega, owns her acerbic personality, but it’s the combination of sass with sensibility and values that has made her a firm favourite with viewers
4. That’s So Raven (2003-2007)
Not only was Raven constantly trying to juggle having psychic powers with fitting in with everyone else, she was also always impeccably dressed with that incredible early noughties style. It’s little wonder the show has inspired multiple spin offs (Corey in the House, Raven’s Home) and also added some much needed diversity to Disney’s line up.
Hannah Montana was a TV show about a fake pop-star, which launched the career of a real pop-star, in the form of Miley Cyrus. The show led to an actual tour of Hannah Montana albums, which grossed $70 million dollars, as well as a spin off movie and its re-release on Disney+ has helped to create a new generation of fans. And even a gameshow Hook team members worked on – Hannah-oke anyone?
6. A Kind of Spark (2023 – Present)
With several of the actors and a large portion of the production team being made up of neurodivergent people, this show is able to provide authentic representation of young girls with neurodivergence. That authenticity of experience coupled with depth of storytelling makes A Kind of Spark a compelling view
7. KC Undercover (2015-2018)
With a similar vibe to Kim Possible, KC Undercover centers on high-school student by day and spy by night Katy Cooper. Katy is a math genius and black belt in Karate, with the show balancing themes of family with fun undercover missions. Plus it stars Zendaya! ZENDAYA!
Following the story of three teenage girls who turn into mermaids whenever they touch water, – it’s a classic friendship (think brains, brawn and badinage) offer with added fishtails, and an overarching conservation narrative. Despite the show being parodied on occasion, its arrival onto Netflix means that a whole new generation of girls has become invested in the lives of Cleo, Ricky and Emma.
9. Grace’s Amazing Machines (2019- present)
Women can ride motorbikes and understand mechanics too! There are also diggers! When we stop enjoying diggers that really is the end of days.
10. Victorious (2010 – 2013)
Launching the career of most notably Ariana Grande, this show deserves a spot on the list for its songs alone, and the central philosophy of its theme song Make it Shine – focussing on Tori and her friends live better lives by celebrating their differences and the madness of the world around.
Let us know who your top female leads for kids are in the comments