Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley) from Daredevil
Lesson: Show up for people.
The third season of Netflix’s Daredevil introduces us to a character we believed to be dead, the titular superhero’s mom. It turns out his mom has been in his life the whole time under a different guise, Sister Maggie, a nun at the Catholic school he attended as a child. When we meet Daredevil this season, he is not in a great place, dealing with a crisis of faith in addition to pre-existing abandonment issues. When he realizes who Sister Maggie is, he’s more hurt and therefore more vulnerable than he’s ever been in his life.
In “The Devil You Know,” Sister Maggie senses Daredevil needs help so she goes to one of his only friends, Karen, and explains, “When someone in need tries to push you away you have to find the strength to hold on tighter.” Sister Maggie knows her son has a tendency to self-isolate because, after already losing so many people he cares about, he is terrified to lose anyone else. But she also knows that he can’t carry out his mission (saving all of Hell’s Kitchen from an endless list of deadly threats) alone. Mama Murdock always finds a way to look after her son, even if it is through other people. Her words are a powerful reminder that a simple act like showing up for the people around you can dramatically change their lives.
Jessica Huang (Constance Wu) from Fresh Off the Boat
Lesson: When there isn’t a clear ‘right’ choice, just make the right choice for you.
Many words have been used to describe the matriarch of the Huang family including blunt, feisty, and no-nonsense, but the key facet of her personality is her keen sense of self-worth. “Hi, My Name Is” is a flashback episode from Fresh Off the Boat’s second season in which we learn an important part of Jessica and her husband’s immigration story: how and why they picked American names in addition to their given Chinese names. Jessica explains that when she asked the professor of a college class she once took why he never called on her, he claimed it was because he couldn’t pronounce her name, Chou Tsai Cha. Although she cites this incident as the reason she changes her name to a more familiar name (to Americans anyway), it’s clear now that her initial reaction was a valid one. If people can learn to pronounce Arwen Undómiel and Daenerys Targaryen, then they can certainly learn to pronounce your name. It’s a tricky subject, and different people will choose different solutions to the problem. There are people like Jessica who, when she changes her name (which is her right), is liberated by the idea that she doesn’t have to be defined by her name; there are others who stick with their given names because they feel a sense of cultural pride in them. Neither choice is wrong, and both should be respected.
Alba Villanueva (Ivonne Coll) from Jane the Virgin
Lesson: It’s OK to allow grief to visit, just don’t let it overstay its welcome.
Alba Villanueva, AKA Abuela, is Jane Villanueva’s grandmother but because a young single mother raised Jane, she was also a backup mom. Abuela gives Jane lots of solid advice throughout the show but the speech she gives a grieving Jane in “Chapter 55”–two weeks after her husband Michael’s death–is particularly memorable. “It will always be different,” she tells Jane, “you’ll always feel different but you will be okay, and your life will be beautiful again, just in different ways.” Alba is Jane’s rock throughout the grieving process. While others might not know what to say to a widow, she speaks from her own experience as one and finds the perfect combination of words to help Jane process her complicated feelings and, eventually, heal. “You’re in a long-term relationship with your grief,” Alba explains in another episode, “but it has to evolve.”
Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) from Friday Night Lights
Lesson: You are more than where you come from.
Tami Taylor was always more than Coach Taylor’s wife and a guidance counselor, especially for Tyra. She gave the best advice to her husband, to her daughter, and to all of the children for whom she considered herself responsible for as the high school’s guidance counselor (and let’s be honest, every viewer at home). Her heart-to-hearts with Tyra were always particularly special because she was often the high schooler’s only champion. Tami taught Tyra to believe that she was more than where she came from, and it clearly got through because Tyra–a girl who was so afraid of failing that she never tried–went on to pursue volleyball, run for student council president, and apply to colleges that naysayers around her once told her were a pipe dream.