Top 10 lesbian characters in fiction
20 April, 2018 - LGBTQ Culture
Let’s be honest: being a lesbian and finding TV shows and movies where lesbian characters don’t die is a challenge in itself. We have reached a point in which it seems that, if a character in a movie is lesbian and she doesn’t die, the cinematic world can’t keep spinning.
Sometimes, death is an inseparable part of the story, especially in those plots that concern the difficult reality many lesbians suffer across the world, but often, lesbian characters are killed just because directors and scriptwriters no longer want to have them in their shows, or, alternatively, they don’t even know how to finish their stories.
Does anybody remember [SPOILER ALERT] Paulie’s awful end (played by the talented Piper Perabo) in Lost and Delirious? And what about Tara Maclay’s in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? And what about Silvia in the Spanish TV show Los Hombres de Paco, Naomi in Skins, or even Xena, the Warrior Princess? Even our royalty gets killed! With so many deaths, lesbians can never get a break.
Due to this, and given the fact that today is International Lesbian Visibility Day, here at Rainbow Gay Tours we have written a list of our 10 favorite lesbian characters, with the added factor that none of them die in their shows. To take it the extra mile, we have chosen to focus exclusively on characters that aren’t so well-known in the LGTBQI world.
Forget the tears and grab some popcorn, these lesbian characters won’t make you cry!
10. Agnes, from Fucking Åmål
We begin this list with Agnes Ahlberg, the lesbian character played by a very young Rebecka Liljeberg in the Swedish 1998 film Fucking Åmål. Agnes is a 16-year-old gay teen living in a small, boring town where her crush Elin, who happens to be one of the most popular girls in the school, also lives.
This Swedish low-budget film isn’t exempt from lesbian drama, but we have decided to include it in the list for all real-life Agneses who are still waiting in their tiny towns to take the step of standing up for themselves and coming out of the closet. Just like Agnes teaches us, it gets better.
9. Santana (& Brittany) from Glee
Glee is one of those shows that has had LGBTQ controversy since its beginnings. For a very long time, both producers and scriptwriters chose to please the most conservative sectors of their audience, who believed Glee was a cotton-candy paradise from which homosexuality was absent.
However, Glee’s lesbian fandom focused on Santana and Brittany, the two lesbian characters of the show, and did some savage lobbying in social media in order to change the outcome of the story. This is especially relevant if we take into account that around that time, fandom lobbying on social media wasn’t a thing. In that sense, Glee’s fandom started a trend that would stick for the years to come.
In the end, the show’s scriptwriters decided to listen to their LGBTQ audience and wrote a scene that seemed a priori utopic: Brittany and Santana’s wedding. Given the incredible work of this fandom, we have considered that Brittany and Santana deserve a spot on this list.
8. Carmen from El Calentito
The one and only Spaniard character on this list is Carmen, played by Spanish actress Ruth Díaz, in 2005 film El Calentito (which could be loosely translated to “The Hotspot”). In this film, Carmen is one of the original members of the punk band “The Siux”, which is about to perform live for the first time in 1981 recently liberalized Madrid (Spain). Carmen’s lesbianism isn’t the most important aspect of her character, and that is something we are extremely thankful for, especially in the still conservative Spanish film arena.
If you are somehow connected with the libertarian movement “la movida madrileña” (the “Madrid scene”) or if the post-dictatorial Spanish ambience is something you could be interested in, don’t hesitate to have a look at this film. The main character is Verónica Sánchez, another Spanish actress who became famous playing Eva, the eldest daughter of Spanish TV family show “Los Serrano”, an actress that has become quite famous these days, and only because of this, the movie is already worth your time.
7. Boo from Orange is the New Black
Okay, okay, we give up. Orange is the New Black can’t be considered a “not so well-known” show in the LGBTQ community. We are also aware that there is quite a lot of drama and a few totally random deaths, but it’s one of the shows with the highest number of lesbian characters nowadays, and as such, we had to include it in this list. Orange offers a wide variety of bisexual and lesbian characters to choose from, but our favorite prisoner of all times has to be Big Boo, the character played by one of the most influential butches of our time, Lea DeLaria.
Big Boo is a well-constructed character, with many different shades. A character that experiments with her gender and even goes on to adopt maternal attitudes with other prisoners of the show. However, Boo is not the average character that pops in your mind when thinking about OITNB (hello Alex Vause fans! I know you’re out there!), but she is for sure one of the most essential characters of the show, and that is why she has already earned a big spot in our hearts.
6. Joan Jett from The Runaways
Biographical movies are the best! You not only get to learn about a new, interesting story, but you also learn which celebs play from the gay team. This is the case of Joan Jett, the 80s rock singer that became famous with her song “I love Rock&Roll” long before artists like Britney Spears did their own covers.
The Runaways tells the story of Jett, played by our favorite vampire of all times: Kirsten Stewart. The story starts when Jett was in her first all-girl band, while she still was a teenager. It is worth noting that Stewart started recording this movie when she was still not done with the end of the Twilight movies, and she had to cut her hair very short to play The Runaways. Due to this, in the last couple of movies of the Twilight series, Stewart is wearing a wig when playing Bella (Cullen).
In case all of this hasn’t managed to make you rush to the internet and find this movie, we also want to note that Stewart’s co-lead, who played Jett’s lover Cherrie Currie is no other that Dakota Fanning, the (former) child prodigy that appeared in movies such as I am Sam and War of the Worlds. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
5. Nomi (& Amanita) from Sense8
There are very few movies and TV shows nowadays that are as incredibly inclusive as Sense8, produced by the Wachowski sisters. The last episode of this incredible Netflix production was aired on June 8th 2018, and it has conquered an incredibly diverse audience. It has everything we love! Sense8 is a science-fiction story that extends itself throughout the five continents, portraying some the most diverse characters in TV nowadays, along with a queer ambience that surrounds the story as a whole.
Within the show, we can find Nomi and Amanita, two of those lesbian characters with the power of transcending cinematic history and becoming the next Shane and Carmen of online TV. Nomi’s character, played by the amazing Jamie Clayton, is a part of the “sensate” universe, formed by eight human intertwined with each other by limbic connection. Nomi’s partner Amanita, played by a not-so-unknown Freema Agyeman, is the perfect companion for her surreal adventures.
This Netflix’s macro-production has been cancelled because of the unviability of its costs (it was literally shot in all five continents!), but in their mere two seasons, it has already managed to establish itself as one of most iconic queer productions of our time. If you still haven’t seen it, pick up your flannels and run to Netflix to watch it. You will not be disappointed!
4. Kate from Everything Sucks
Everything Sucks is another one of the newest Netflix’s productions, but this time, focusing on the 90s decade. In Everything Sucks, we get to meet Kate Messner, played by Peyton Kennedy, an introverted and closeted teenager who happens to be the daughter of the school’s principal.
Kate, like many of lesbians, begins her romantic path with a teen boy who is also the co-lead of the show, Luke O’Neil, played by Jahi Di’Allo. However, Kate soon discovers her romantic interests don’t match the heterosexual relationship she’s in, and she breaks up with Luke in order to run towards Emaline, the popular girl from the drama club.
The show is not exempt from controversy given the age gap between both actresses – Kennedy was 14 when recording the show, while her co-star Sydney Sweeney, playing Emaline, was 6 years older. It is however on the top of the list for us due to the beauty of its shots, the amazing soundtrack, and, well, because we love the 90s.
Update: In July 2018, Netflix confirmed that the show will not be renewed for a second season. Could it maybe have something to do with the controversy? Be your own judge.
3. Annalise from How to Get Away with Murder
A bisexual character has stepped into our list! And on the top 3 no less! Annalise Keating is the main character of How to Get Away with Murder, the American ABC TV show. Keating is played by the incredibly charismatic actress Viola Davis, winner of a Golden Globe, an Oscar, an Emmy, five Academy awards, and many more.
In How to Get Away with Murder, Annalise Keating is a lawyer and law professor specialized in representing the defendant’s bench, and her unconventional methods hook you up to the show from episode one. Do not expect an Ally McBeal approach; here the heterosexual drama and plot lightness are substituted by a way more obscure and intricate approach.
If you are into intense plots full of action, mystery, and many flashbacks, How to Get Away with Murder has everything you love but, beware! You may not be able to separate yourself from the screen in days!
2. Yara Greyjoy from Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is one of those shows in which you wouldn’t expect any LGBTQ characters to appear. With a straight-focused script and production, there isn’t much room for gay and lesbian characters to shine.
If you still haven’t seen Game of Thrones because you believed there was nothing on it for you, we are here to prove you wrong. In Game of Thrones you will find plenty of straight characters, it’s true, along with a more than prevalent patriarchal vision that has forced many actresses to stand up for themselves and refuse to get naked in any more episodes.
All of this criticism is true and we support it too, but there is a small factor to bear in mind. That factor is called Yara Greyjoy, she is a warrior, heiress of the Greyjoy house, and she’s as tough as it gets. On top of everything, our beloved Yara, played by Gemma Whelan, is an openly gay woman, something we only discover a few seasons into the show.
If you still haven’t found enough reasons to watch this fantasy-based macro-production, and in case Khaleesi and Cersei Lannister aren’t convincing enough, we at least hope that the Ironborn heiress can help you get closer to medieval fantasy. She sure has helped us!
1. Elena from One Day at a Time
Our top spot of the list is for none other than Elena Alvarez, the daughter of Penelope Alvarez in the American Netflix show One Day at a Time. Elena, played by Colombian actress Isabella Gomez, is a teen who happens to be in the middle of her sexual awakening. Being incredibly smart, Elena builds her personality on the show itself, going through pretty much all stages we all have been through.
If you would like to discover one of the most refreshing Netflix comedies while reliving your “baby-lesbian” past, you should definitely give this show a try. Even though Elena is not the main character of the series, she has a central role on the show that has allowed Gomez, an actress we already knew from smaller roles such as the one in Modern Family, to shine with her own light. We don’t want to give away the plot, but if this post has caught your attention, we highly recommend you to find the series and start watching it now. In case this wasn’t enough, we would like to close the list with one of our favorite Elena’s quotes on the show:
What’s so great about Buffy? It’s an allegory for how strong women are in constant battle with the oppressive, bloodsucking, male-dominated society!”.
One Day at a Time is going to give a lot to talk about – would you like to participate in the conversation? (:
If this list hasn’t brought enough gayness in your life for the day, have a look at our all-lesbian city tours in Barcelona! Check out our website and get in touch with us to learn more!
Happy Lesbian Visibility Day everyone!