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'Dead Ringers' & 15 Other Problematic Lesbians and Queer Women We Love
We love these problematic queer women.
Focus Features/Amazon Prime Video/Showtime
Wholesome queer content is great... but what about the joys of deliciously depraved, decadently problematic queer content?
Of course, we want to see queer characters who don’t fit into tropes, who aren’t damaging stereotypes, and who are heroes. But also, sometimes we want to get down and dirty. Sometimes it's fun to revel in characters who take control and just do whatever the hell they want.
Real-life people are problematic. Real love is problematic. And these shows and movies celebrate that. At the end of the day, we are messy queers and sometimes we just want to watch other messy queers.
With the announcement of a new queer-women-centered version of Dead Ringers starring Rachel Wiesz as two brilliant twin doctors who may be a little too codependent, we’ve got excited about problematic queer women all over again.
First, we'll take a look into that show, and then, share fifteen more problematic lesbians, bisexuals, and queer women characters we can't help but love.
Beverly and Elliot Mantle from 'Dead Ringers'
Amazon Prime Video
Dead Ringers is a beautiful, hilarious, twisted, sexy, and disorienting fever dream, and it’s exactly the kind of queer TV show we need right now.
Based on the classic Cronenberg movie from the 80’s, Dead Ringers follows Beverly and Elliot Mantle, two of the most brilliant doctors in the world who are also twin sisters (Beverly is a lesbian and Elliot is pansexual). With the help of a billionaire lesbian and her wife, they open a new birthing center, hoping to revolutionize a type of healthcare that millions of women (and some others) need access to every year.
From there, the twins spiral into success, madness, love, and obsession.
While Dead Ringers is firmly in the thriller genre, it’s also a Vantablack comedy and even isn't afraid to swerve into Camp, with Elliot gorging on food like Saturn devouring his son in nearly every scene she’s in, the twins calling each other “delicious,” and a penultimate episode that travels to a Southern Gothic house full of a family of twins headed by a disturbing male gynecologist.
Rachel Weisz needs to win an Emmy (it's a shame she can’t win two) for playing Beverly and Elliott, twin brilliant gynecologists bent on changing the way the birthing industry works in America.
While the twins are unmistakably sisters, they couldn’t be more different, and Weisz brings brilliant subtleties to each role. The series also has an incredible writer in Alice Birch and incredible directors like Karyn Kusama, who should all also be winning Emmys this year.
Why They're Problematic: Dead Ringers isn’t afraid at all to lean into the codependency that turns into a twisted queer romance between the sisters. Elliot makes out with her sister’s neck, Beverly says “I want to crawl inside you,” they stop just short of passionately kissing on the mouth; these sisters are in love, your honor. And that’s just the beginning of what makes these wonderful characters so problematic, there’s also the drugs, deception, murder, and illegal cloning.
Why We Love Them: That fearlessness is one of the things that makes it so great. While Republican lawmakers and angry teens online will tell you that there’s nothing worse than a “problematic queer person,” most of us are smart enough to know that without being problematic, most characters are boring.
To be human is to be filled with flaws, weird ticks, trauma, and problematic thoughts and behaviors. And the best art that we can produce shows that and examines it. If we ignore what makes us problematic, we ignore what makes us human.Dead Ringers asks what is love, what is womanhood, what is sisterhood, what is genius, and what is happiness, and it finds that none of the answers are clear. The only clear thing about this show is that it is a true masterpiece. Dead Ringers is currently streaming on Prime Video.
Carol Aird from 'Carol'
The Weinstein Company
Why She’s Problematic: In the original book that Carol is based on, The Price of Salt, Carol Aird is 32 years old and her love interest Therese is only 19. Both characters have been aged-up in the movie, but there’s still about a 15-year age gap between the sophisticated Carol and naive Therese.
Why We Love Her: Carol is also one of the best lesbian movies ever made, based on one of the best lesbian books ever made. Cate Blanchett was nominated for a much-deserved Oscar for her role. Plus, we all have mommy issues, so of course we love Carol.
Abby McEnany from 'Work in Progress'
Why She’s Problematic: Abby is a misanthrope and nihilist, but her selfish attitude alone doesn’t get her on this list. She also deadnamed her trans masc partner in a fight, including screaming it in the street.
Why We Love Her: Work in Progress is one of the most complex portrayals of queer characters on TV ever. While she is definitely problematic, she's also trying to grow and learn — something we should all take a lesson from.
Catra from 'She-Ra and the Princesses of Power'
Why She’s Problematic: Early on in She-Ra, Catra openly admits that she knows the Horde are the bad guys, but she refuses to leave. She commits a lot of war crimes and then tries to destroy the whole universe. She also spends a lot of time trying to kill her ex-BFF (and crush) Adora.
Why We Love Her: Catra is also one of the best and most well-rounded lesbian characters in all of kids and family media. Her journey from traumatized and abused teen to an adult who’s trying to work on her own issues and grow, and her journey into love with Adora, forever changed the way kids TV portrays gay characters.
Emily Dickinson from 'Dickinson'
Why She’s Problematic: Just like in real life, Emily in Dickinson is in love with her sister-in-law Sue. At first that might not sound too bad, especially compared to others on this list. But she makes it more problematic when, in the pilot episode, Sue is mourning the death of her blood sister when Emily says “I’ll be your sister now” right before the two make out.
Why We Love Her: Emily Dickinson is one of the greatest poets of all time. Also, Hailee Steinfeld’s hilarious, snarky, and down-to-earth portrayal of her brought her to life in an all-new way for an all-new generation.
Ginger Fitzgerald from 'Ginger Snaps'
Why She’s Problematic: Okay, yes, Ginger does kill a bunch of people when she turns into a werewolf, but that’s not what really earns her a spot on this list. She also has a definitely queer, codependent relationship with her sister Brigitte. At one point, she even climbs on top of her and tries to seduce her into becoming a werewolf with her by saying, “We’re almost not even related anymore.”
Why We Love Her:Ginger Snaps is a cult classic, and we love the way it openly talks about girls going through puberty, periods, and transformations. It’s a great, feminist movie that we’ll watch again and again.
Greta Gill from 'A League of Their Own'
Why She’s Problematic: Greta is a player (and not just the baseball kind), there’s no way around it. Because of the time and world she’s living in, she’s made rules to not fall in love, and if that means she has to hurt Carson, so be it.
Why We Love Her: Aside from the fact that Greta (played by D'Arcy Carden) is a drop-dead gorgeous bombshell, we can understand where her set of rules comes from. Yes, she might break girls' hearts all across the country, but she’s still got a special place in ours.
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy from the DC Comics universe
Why They’re Problematic: Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are supervillains. They kill hundreds (if not thousands!) of people all the time in their schemes to rob banks, take over Gotham City, and turn the world into a plant-based paradise.
Why We Love Them: They’re also our favorite comic book couple! Harlivy has become one of the biggest ships in all of comics recently and has jumped to the silver screen in HBO’s terrific animated Harley Quinn show. These two are just so darn cute together!
Lydia Tár from 'Tár'
Why She’s Problematic: While Lydia Tár is an unquestioned genius, the power that she’s gained has allowed her to become a predator who seeks out young musicians and students to sleep with them and then spit them out when she’s done with them.
Why We Love Her: Again, Cate Blanchett is delivering the goods in portraying complex queer women. She was nominated for another Oscar for the role, giving us a prestige lesbian antihero.
Manuela from 'Madchen in Uniform'
Bild und Ton GmbH
Why She’s Problematic: Manuela is a fourteen-year-old girl who lost her mother when she was young. At school, she meets Fraulein von Bernburg, a kind teacher. She quickly falls in love with her teacher/mother figure.
Why We Love Her:Madchen in Uniform (1931) is one of the first sympathetic portrayals of lesbian characters in film history. Neither Manuela nor Fraulein von Bernburg dies and both characters are shown to be real people with real feelings. Simply put, it’s one of the greatest and best lesbian movies ever made.
Marla Grayson from 'I Care a Lot'
Why She’s Problematic: The entire premise of I Care a Lot is that Marla is a professional con artist who scams old people by drugging them up and putting them in nursing homes so she can steal their money. That's pretty evil.
Why We Love Her: Still, Marla was a firecracker and a true delight to watch. Played by Rosamund Pike, who won a Golden Globe for her role, Marla is deliciously sharp and has a wicked tongue and sense of style.
Santana Lopez from 'Glee'
Why She’s Problematic: Santana was a "straight-up bitch," as she so eloquently put it herself. Whether she was destroying Kurt, Finn, or Rachel in the hallways of McKinley High, Santana always had something negative to say. She was the ultimate high school (and later, college) bully.
Why We Love Her: Santana was also the first queer Latina many viewers saw on TV and changed the way lesbians are portrayed in media. While she started off as a pretty one-note character, she grew into someone with depth who was a part of some of Glee's best storylines. Played by the legendary Naya Rivera, Santana Lopez gave birth to an entire generation of gay mean girls.
Shane McCutcheon from 'The L Word: Generation Q'
Why She’s Problematic: Shane is the ultimate cheater and f*boi. She’s so associated with cheating and sleeping around that we compare every lesbian f*boi character after her, to her.
Why We Love Her: Again, we compare everyone to her. For many queer women, The L Word was our introduction to queer relationships and lesbian sex, and Shane is a huge part of that. How many people did she help with their sexual awakening? We can never hate her for that!
Taissa Turner from 'Yellowjackets'
Why She’s Problematic: Like the rest of her high school soccer team that survived in the Canadian Rockies, Taissa is a cannibal and a murderer. Even as an adult she can’t help but get drawn back into the drama of violence and secrets.
Why We Love Her: Played by Jasmin Savoy Brown (one of our faves!) and Tawny Cypress, Taissa is a badass and high-achiever. The scenes between teen Taissa and her friend/girlfriend Van are intimate and heartfelt, giving us a sweet reprieve from all the blood and horror of the wilderness.
Tiffany Valentine from 'Chucky'
Why She’s Problematic: Another serial killer! Tiffany will happily kidnap and murder anyone who gets in her way — or anyone who she thinks it would be fun to kill.
Why We Love Her: Tiffany got really queer in the Chucky TV show when Charles Lee Ray possessed the body of a woman named Nica and Tiffany had a great time getting to know her partner in love and murder in a whole new body. She’s a camp queen.
Villanelle in 'Killing Eve'
Why She’s Problematic: Okay, yes, Villanelle is a psychopathic assassin and serial killer. That’s pretty problematic.
Why We Love Her: But damn, if we don’t ship her so hard with Eve Polastri, the British Intelligence investigator chasing her and trying to arrest her. How can we not love Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh?