Ellie Miller from Broadchurch
The extraordinary thing about Ellie Miller is that she’s so astoundingly normal. Everything about her is normal: her appearance, her career, her personality, her story. This is a character who doesn’t necessarily need to be a woman, and yet by writing her as so utterly ordinary, she ends up being imminently likeable and relatable.
It’s hard to put my finger on what works with her: maybe it’s the actress Olivia Colman, maybe it’s the writing, maybe it’s the setting. Ellie is allowed to grapple with human fears and emotions – often in harsh, ugly ways – without the writers feeling the need to make her a “good role model” or a “strong independent woman”. She gets hysterical when faced with the death of a child, snappish when frustrated, cruel when frightened – but also strong through devastation, calm in a crisis, and willing to learn from other people.
In the show’s one concession to her gender, she’s initially angry that she’s been passed over for promotion in favour of a man, but her relationship with David Tennant's Alec Hardy ends up being the cornerstone of the show.
Browsing through various Broadchurch message-boards, I was amazed at how warmly she was embraced and discussed by viewers. Even more shocking, she retained her popularity even after threatening David Tennant’s character that she’d pee into a cup and throw it at him. Any other fandom would have her drawn and quartered for threatening a white male woobie, but Olivia Coleman breezes through as though she has every right to insult the 10th Doctor.
She’s just…a real person. It’s difficult to really pinpoint how or why, and possibly rather depressing that something so simple is considered such a big deal, but the fact that she’s simply allowed to be is what makes her so compelling.