Where the Dykes Are: My Favorite Lesbian Characters

Yes I’m going to be paraphrasing the fabulous writer Susan J. Douglas here, with a sprinkle of Nostalgia Chick. The title you see is a reference to Douglas’s seminal book Where the Girls Are which talks about Baby Boomer women and the pop culture they grew up with.  I care to present the fictional characters I’ve grown up and admired from childhood to now as a Undergraduate Student still somewhat closeted for practical reasons I care not to share for the sake of not wanting to bore readers. Here I will be the barometer for the characters in pop culture that have represented lesbianism for better or worse when being viewed by Gen Y lesbians. I’m going to get totally personal in this article so bear with me; And I’m the barometer here, cowabunga!

1. Lil DeVille, Rugrats (1991-2004).

This fan has felt vindicated! Okay simmer down Toony. Many fans will disagree with me on Lil’s sexuality, since she moved on to guys in the dismal All Grown Up! but ever since the episode “Angelica’s Twin”, Lil has confirmed her desires when speaking of “Balleena” an alter-ego devised by Angelica to get more toys and treats.  Her coming out occurs when she is discussing Balleena with her twin brother and Chuckie, the boys voiced that they want to marry her when they grow up. She states that she is perfect for Balleena because they’re both pretty. Nonchalant coming out for Lil, well that can be her style when she isn’t excited or determined to fight over something with Phil. That said, it doesn’t matter if Lil is straight, a lesbian, bi, or pansexual; we all know that she will be reading this and giggling while soaking herself in some mud and doing what she wants with the worms she finds there. Plus Lil that Bow is wicked cool!

2. Patty Bouvier, The Simpsons (1989-present)

Patty Bouvier has always been the crankiest and most hilarious of the Simpson Matriarch’s older twin sisters and her sexuality has been hinted at several times in the series. From her turning down ballet tickets because “ballet is for girls”, commenting on seeing a naked Homer in the non-canon Treehouse of Horror special that the “last lingering shred of my heterosexuality” has gone, and being one of occupants of a literal closet float in the local Pride Parade. Finally in the 2005 episode “There’s Something About Marrying” Patty has come out of the closet and was engaged to a golf player named Veronica, Marge disapproves and then discovers that Veronica is a cis-gendered male in disguise. Patty leaves him and forges on her own love life, which is can be a drought with a 1% chance of rain.

3. Penelope Taynt, The Amanda Show (1999-2002)

Look everyone it’s obvious that Penelope is queer, I mean not every fangirl tattoos a portrait of their idol on their stomach. Penelope to me always provided lessons on how to be a devoted fan girl, yet also through her example shown the danger of being obsessed to the point where you end up stalking your idol and start becoming gleeful over having contact with their discarded tissue napkins. Penelope though, always taught the value of having the word “please” be part of your own vocabulary, of wearing comfortable clothing, interacting on the internet, and taught everyone that one should always introduce this cool person you like so much to other people so they can get why you’re so wigged out over them.


That said, it seemed at some point Nickelodeon execs became concerned that the subtext might be totally noticeable so Penelope received a boyfriend, the son of her nemesis Barney the security guard. I was peeved but realized that both are getting something out of this totally close lez bro relationship: he gets to date someone that pisses off Daddy and she gets picnics where he serves alphabet soup with nothing but the A’s, M’s, N’s, and D’s.

Also, Amanda Bynes,  we love you and need you to seek some help (sincere mode).

4. Rebecca Gillies, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)

Fans will disagree with me whether this is a quality film, much less a good sequel and book adaptation.  I say that it’s….okay (again with quoting Nostalgia Chick).



In the book version, which is a modernized Persuasion, Rebecca is a nasty girl who is trying to get her hands on Bridget’s man! The movie had her be a sweet….lesbian who is very friendly with her colleague Mark Darcy and is pining after his girlfriend Bridget Jones the damn time! Ironically Bridget was paranoid that the two were shagging each other and that everytime Rebecca smiled at her, she was sizing up the competition.  So halfway through the movie, Bridget and Mark break up over a misunderstanding and she had ended up being imprisoned in Thailand for accidentally smuggling drugs (it happens), so Bridget seeking reconciliation with her boyfriend and hoping to confess her feelings to him goes over to his house where she sees Rebecca and sadly wishes them well. Rebecca decides it’s time for her to confess her crush to Bridget and face total rejection, but of course she will kiss her on the lips. Holy M. Night Shymalan! Of course Bridget took the news well (well it turns out Rebecca wasn’t after her man) and tried to console her that if it doesn’t work out in the heterosexual romance scene, she’ll call her. Many fans have argued whether the plot twist was so fetch or if it was doing the book a great injustice, people like Colin Firth and articles at After Ellen took a different view.

COLIN FIRTH: That’s a very difficult question (laughs). I think it was a very good decision! No, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever had a strong opinion on the subject to be honest. I think it creates a plot twist that serves a purpose at a particular point. We have to find something conclusive that scientifically finds Bridget’s fears to be unfounded. And that was the device they used.

AFTER ELLEN: Rebecca Gilles (Jacinda Barrett) isn’t a lesbian in Helen Fielding’s written sequel to Bridget Jones’s Diary, but she is in the cinematic adaptation, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Bridget’s patented neuroses cause her to think that Rebecca is out to steal Mark Darcy away from her, and, of course, we, the audience, believe right along her; why shouldn’t we? Rebecca seems to follow Mark Darcy everywhere. She’s at work with him, at his dinner parties, at his charity dinners, even on his and Bridget’s romantic ski holiday. Ultimately, though, Rebecca confesses the reason for her ubiquitous presence in Mark Darcy’s life: She’s in love with Bridget. The subtext is there all along, but there’s no way you noticed. It has been argued that Rebecca is a sad-sack excuse for a lesbian character, pining away for an entire movie after a straight girl. But, I’d argue quite the opposite. Rebecca is a top-notch barrister with excellent athletic ability and a penchant for pop-culture trivia. So, she happens to be in love with Bridget Jones. I am a little, too. Bridget accepts Rebecca’s reveal and her first lesbian kiss in stereotypical Englishwoman fashion: “Thank you very much,” she says. “That was lovely.” 

My view: I was fourteen when the movie came out and already had to deal with Bible thumpers regularly and it was an election year in the United States and same-sex marriage was a huge issue point for the Presidential race and I was and still am living in a Conservative environment, and was pretty scared. I also was only aware of a few famous lesbians but didn’t relate much, since they were all older. I feared I had resign myself to a life of celibacy or face eternal damnation after living a life of degradation or facing people that thought that lesbians were women who were too ugly to get a man (does this mean women have low standards?), then I saw Rebecca on the big screen: she was smart, had a great career, was what TvTropes calls a “Pop Cultured Badass”, athletic, good-humored, sweet, looked fab in those giant ascot race hats, and totally pretty. Of course I found this character awesome and admired the film.

Many fans will disagree with me: fans like Sandra Faith who writes a buttload of BJD fan-fiction, and after you read this article, you should follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/_sfaith and check out her website at LiveJournal http://sfaith.livejournal.com/ . She is a pretty fabulous person and very nice even when you’re a rabid crazy girl like me!

5. Kirsten Kellogg and Dana Bernstein, Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in all the World (2007-2009)

Okay take The Flintstones, have Fred marry Betty and Barney marry Wilma. Fred and Betty are a lesbian couple while Betty and Barney are a gay couple, that is Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in all the World in a nutshell for you. Kirsten and Dana are a loving yet somewhat mismatched couple (aren’t some of the best couples mismatched though?) who decide to get turkey basted with the help of their neighbors Rick and Steve. Both are extremely PC vegetarian feminists with very different views of the hoped for pregnancy: Kirsten can’t wait to have her precious baby and Dana can’t wait for Kirsten’s boobs to get bigger, but Kirsten has a difficult time getting pregnant whereas it takes for sperm to spill on Dana to get her PG. Hilarty ensues for the rest of the series (which ended after there was executive meddling in LOGO network), but Kirsten and Dana remain, in my eyes, the lesbian answer to Homer and Marge Simpson along with Stan and Francine Smith when it comes to loving yet dysfunctional couples in animation.

Plus can you check out my picture of Kirsten on DeviantArt? http://toongrrl.deviantart.com/art/Kirsten-Kellogg-327736483

6. Carol McCardy, Mad Men (2007-present)

Mad Men is one of my favorite live action television series, so of course the two sapphic sisters that appeared in the show will be on this list. Carol was the first of them to appear in the series and only for the first season: she was the closeted roommate and college friend of Joan Holloway, when she isn’t trying to pick up men she is pining over Joan. She gets fired in one episode and Joan proposes a girls night out on the town for some guys, Carol later confesses her feelings for Joan. Joan pretty much denies what she heard and continues on their night. We never see Carol again after that episode, I assume she found her own place and moved on from Joan. Maybe to San Francisco as a member of Daughters of Bilitis. But Carol reminds us of just how crappy the “good ol’ days” were, especially if you were a lesbian. She reminds us of what the Gay Rights Movement has struggled for and still is working on to this day, she makes us all appreciate the gains we’ve won since 1960.

7. Joyce Ramsay, Mad Men (2007-present)

Joyce is of a different mindset and generation than poor Carol, Tom and Lorenzo in their Mad Style blog have stated she isn’t even like the typical out lesbian of 1965, that she is “cutting-edge”. She is confident, bright, has a photography job at Life magazine, and has the good taste to flirt with Megan Calvet and Peggy Olson. She is hip enough to hang out at places that get busted for pot and has the stomach to look at all those Richard Speck murder photos. Sadly we only see her for a bit in Season 5 after her Season 4 debut, did she move to San Francisco and meet up with Carol? *guessing*

8. Cynthia Rose, Pitch Perfect (2012)

Sweet hairdo, sweet voice, horny, and nonchalant. Cynthia Rose never hid her sexuality in the film, she just didn’t care to make a huge announcement of it. She isn’t perfect for sure, I mean she does sexually harass Staci and at one point, Fat Amy,  and she’s a gambling addict…..but girlfriends! Her…voice…is…amazing! I will forgive almost anything from her! Hmmmmm…..Cynthia Rose do you want to meet up with Rebecca? Maybe chat with Patty?

So that’s my list of favorite lesbian characters in pop culture, I’m just so proud of this article and I hope you enjoy my trip to memory lane as much as I did.


Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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