The AfterEllen.com Huddle: Boss Ass Bitches

As a new House of Cards convert, I’m finally cued into the power of Robin Wright‘s Claire Underwood. She’s manipulative, stubborn and doesn’t care who she’s taking down to get what she wants, and that makes her a Boss Ass Bitch. (We use the term “bitch” with the same affection and reclamation that Bitch magazine does: “When it’s being used as an insult, “bitch” is an epithet hurled at women who speak their minds, who have opinions and don’t shy away from expressing them, and who don’t sit by and smile uncomfortably if they’re bothered or offended. If being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we’ll take that as a compliment.”)

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With that in mind, this week’s Huddle is all about those HBICs—Head Bitches in Charge. So tell me, group: Who is the baddest bitch of them all?

Dana Piccoli: Juliette Barnes on Nashville is the bossest bitch in country music. She says what she thinks, even if that means risking everything. Buy her a 10k bottle of champagne to try and win her favor? She will tell you to stick that champagne right up your ass. She started out as Nashville‘s villain but Hayden Panettiere has brought a lot of depth and nuance to the role, making her one of my favorite prime time characters. The best is when Juliette lets her walls down for a moment, because she actually lets you love her for a little bit and it is such a satisfying feeling.

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Eboni Rafus: I’d like to submit the video parody of Olivia Pope of Scandal as evidence that she is a Boss Ass Bitch in the best way. I want to be here when I grow up (minus the whole sleeping with a married man/love triangle thing.)

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Valerie Anne: The newest Boss Ass Bitch in town is definitely Eleanor Guthrie (Black Sails). She’s living in man’s world but takes shit from no man. She easily commands a room full of grumpy pirates or self-important merchants. She’ll listen to your advice but she sure as hell won’t take it. And when her lover is being held hostage by a disgusting animal of a man, and Anne Bonny says, “Hey, let’s kill that asshole,” Eleanor Guthrie simply responds, “No, let’s kill them all.”

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Ali Davis: I spend enough time rhapsodizing about my feared/beloved Claire Underwood during my House of Cards recaps, so I’ll go with another political wife and my all-time old-school favorite: Angela Lansbury as Eleanor Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate.

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She’s ruthlessly in charge through most of the movie, smooth, manipulative and infuriating, and completely in control of her husband and son. And you, you poor fool in the audience, you think you have a handle on her character. And then suddenly she has one beautifully underplayed line that makes all the blood run out of your brain. And then she builds that into a monologue that makes you want to cry and hide and maybe cheer for her all at once. Like it’s so great your body doesn’t know what to do with itself. I had a friend actually hit me during that monologue because I made her watch that movie.

Seriously, it’s one of the best collisions of acting and writing you’ll ever see, and we should all be carrying Angela Lansbury around on our shoulders every single day for spotting that scene for what it was and making it so incredible.

p.s. I will make you watch that movie.

Marcie Bianco: Miranda Priestly, by far, is by far the “boss ass bitch” of all bitches. Also, she manifests in a variety of domains, whether it be publishing or, say, academia—I’ve worked for a Miranda, let’s put it that way.

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Dara Nai: My pick is Amy Poehler and here’s why. Recently, I was watching the Jeopardy College Championship, and during a finals episode, the female sophomore from Princeton got an answer wrong. Host Alex Trebek said something to her, and she said sweetly, “I’m sorry.” Oh honey, no. No! Then, I remembered this passage from Tina Fey‘s book, Bossypants:

“Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy “comedy bits” going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense… I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and ‘unladylike.’

Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said: ‘Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.’

Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. ‘I don’t fucking care if you like it.’ Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit…

With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.”

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A boss ass bitch does not care what you think. She does not crouch so you feel taller. And she does not apologize for being amazing. By the way, Princeton girl ended up winning the championship. I’m confident she’ll grow up and stop apologizing. Because smart is the new bitch is the new black.

Kim Hoffman: Spencer Hastings—also known as Boss Ass Bitch Queen (and my spirit animal.) She is keen and reactionary in ways the other Liars aren’t and can’t be—and sometimes to a remarkable disadvantage, that hinders almost all of her credibility with them, putting her in the hot seat, even if she has all the answers, all the sharp tools, all the bold moves, all the wild ideas—and no one wants to see/hear it. Girl can come to school looking like she just had a sleepover with Wednesday Addams and still pull it together. Her mash of opinions and a deep sense of her surroundings is what puts her so close to that edge that scares people—and like a moth to a flame, she can’t help but join them as they hold their witch-hunty torches, because she gets a bit of pleasure from meeting her naysayers head-on, if only to prove them wrong.

TROIAN BELLISARIO

Nothing is more exciting than when Spencer proves everyone wrong. And not because she’s a Type-A who acts Reese Witherspoon in Election. Spencer is more evolved, with plateaus of thought that transcend high school drama. Where there is intimidation, Spencer stares it square in the eye. All “batty” or “crazy” women are considered threatening and unpredictable, right? Heaven forbid we don’t act simple and polite and mind our manners like atomic housewives. While the rest of the world thinks she’s gone cocoa bananas, Spencer doesn’t mind making waves, taking risks, and still making room for a quick-witted response as she guzzles down her coffee.

Heather Hogan: There’s a lot of ways to be a boss ass bitch. You can crush heads and you can crush hearts you can crash your car into anyone who gets in your way (love you forever, Mona Vanderwaal), but the two bossest ass bitches in the history of TV (tied for first place) are Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights and Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show. They didn’t just own it, they owned it with a level of class and charm that mere mortals can never hope to achieve. Every night before I go to bed I say a little prayer that goes like this: “God, grant me Tami’s empathy to embrace the world, Claire’s fire to fix what is broken, and the wisdom to see Regina Georges for exactly who they are.” Amen, y’all.

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Lucy Hallowell: Abigail Bartlet takes zero shit from anyone and could care less if her program to give public health services in a bad part of D.C. conflicts with Leo McGarry or her husband’s agenda. So what if he’s the President of the United States. So what if she got her license suspended for treating his MS on the sly. She’s smarter than you are and you both know it. She hired Josh Lyman’s old girlfriend, Amy Gardner, just so they could both kick his, and the President’s, ass on a regular basis. She’s also a friend of Elmo’s which makes her entirely unstoppable.

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Elaine Atwell: Bette Porter was the bossiest boss of them all. Nice? No. She was too busy to be nice. But, lest we forget, she almost always was acting either in the service of the people and principals she believed in most strongly. And when she did mess up, it was always so hot and so epic that I had to forgive her. So yeah, Bette Porter, you can totally be the boss of me.

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Erika Star: I’m not usually one to state the obvious, but did you see the Oscars? No one can rock menswear or crash Twitter with a selfie quite like Ellen.

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Bridget McManus: My pick is Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

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Jill Guccini: This huddle has made me way over-analyze what I actually consider to be bitchiness. I love bitches, but I have a very specific idea of what a bitch means to me, and it’s not necessarily someone who’s just powerful. It’s someone that has a certain type of emotionalism to them, who’s hot tempered and says things without thinking, even if they know they’re hurtful, and a certain kind of bitch might feel bad about them later, but they’ll keep doing it, because, well, they’re a boss ass bitch and that’s just how they is. They’re also always smart, which is why they can come up with such witty bitchiness so quickly.

And so in this way, I don’t actually consider Kalinda (The Good Wife) to be a bitch at all. She hides her emotions 98% of the time, and is very calculating with how she does everything. She never loses control. She’s a genius, but she’s not a bitch.
Caroline Elliott, however, is. I mean, she’s actually referred to as a “snotty bitch” multiple times by other characters in Last Tango in Halifax. She’s the school principal you’re terrified of, the mom you never want to be mad at you, the ex from hell. She’s powerful but she’s also angry and sloppy and sad and she is my favorite lesbian bitch ever.
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I also have to give a call out to Paris Gellar, the best private school mean girl there ever was, queen of the best one-liners on TV. Tie your tubes, idiot.

Jenna Lykes: Because I’m not so good with topical references (1997 was a great year, amirite?) and will find any excuse to relate life back to Buffy, I choose the one and only Glorificus as my Boss Ass Bitch. Though she wasn’t necessarily the best big bad to ever terrorize Sunnydale (Angelus, duh), she was certainly the most fabulous. Glory was a hell goddess and, boy, did she know it- I mean, the woman had minions for god’s sake. Her sense of entitlement, lack of patience, and rampant vanity have scarcely been seen in this dimension since.

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Trish Bendix: I love to hate Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones. She sits on a sinsister throne of evil, but she masterfully uses the men around her like pawns. In the end, I hope she loses to the Mother of Dragons, but it’ll be fun to watch her put up a good fight.

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Who do you think is the BAB of all time?

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