Bette Porter, The L Word and Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (chosen by Sarah Warn)
Bette Porter and Willow Rosenberg
Willow is a brilliant, endearing, and witty embodiment of the confusion and experimentation of youth. We see her grow up, come out, and come to terms with her own power and powerlessness — experiences many of us had when we were young, just without the turning evil and trying to end the world part (and sadly, without the Vamp Willow — love her!)
Bette is lesbian life as a grown-up. Her triumphs and mistakes as a business woman, a parent, and a partner resonate with many queer women. And Bette’s ongoing attempt to control everything and everyone around her, often with disastrous results, serves as a helpful cautionary tale for control freaks like me: loosen up, or you may end up with a dead psychotic "friend" floating in your pool.
Bette and Willow represent different life stages and personalities: adulthood vs adolescence, power suits vs. the softer side of Sears. But they’re both likable and relatable, and they both make our own lives seem a little better — because as long as you haven’t skinned a man alive or cheated on your partner in jail, your day can’t be going that bad, right?
Nancy Bartlett, Roseanne (chosen by Trish Bendix)
Nancy Bartlett (center)
I am so thankful for Nancy Bartlett (Sandra Bernhard).
I never watched Roseanne during its first run on primetime television. I didn’t catch on to the ’90s sitcom about small town, lower class living until it was in syndication on Lifetime and MeTV. But one of the reasons (in addition to out actor Sara Gilbert as Darlene) I’m so glad that I finally marathonned it was Sandra Bernhard‘s crass, leopard-print unitard-wearing lesbian character, Nancy.
She wasn’t always gay on the show, but when she came out, she was one of the first regular lesbian characters to appear on television. And the best part about it was that no one cared. Not Roseanne, not Dan, not even little D.J. Even male suitors in Lanford, Illinois weren’t making a big deal of her being into women, and thus began Roseanne‘s great display of LGBT awareness, which, hopefully, resonated with viewers. (Yes, rural America — lesbians are people, too.)
Nancy dated the most beautiful women in Lanford (Morgan Fairchild and Mariel Hemingway both played her girlfriends) and took Roseanne and Jackie out to a lesbian bar, one of the first to be depicted on television. Roseanne even kissed Mariel herself and Nancy was cool, calm and collected about it.
Despite being one of the most bizarrely dressed and sometimes flighty characters on the show, Nancy was a hilarious and well-loved character for seven seasons of the Emmy-winning series. She was always confident, self-aware and a good friend. Thank you, Nancy Bartlett.