If you find yourself flipping through a catalog of lesbian cliches, it won’t take long for you to stumble onto a double-page spread labeled “man-haters.” It’s a myth as old as Sappho herself, the idea that lesbians loathe lads. (Ironically, it’s a superstition that was perpetuated by lads, to lend credence to that old “lesbians seek to shred the fabric of society” lore.) But even though the trope is nonsensical, it’s impossible to have a conversation about the failings of lesbian representation in modern media without some gay lady rolling her eyes and saying, “Well, what do you expect? It was written/drawn/directed/produced by a dude.”
There are few arguments in the world that make me as bananas as that one. Certainly there are queer-specific/women-specific life experiences that straight people/men cannot fully comprehend. But it’s absurd to suggest that men cannot create organic, authentic, fully-realized lesbian and bisexual characters. It’s also historically inaccurate.
I have recently (finally!) found myself immersed in Stieg Larsson‘s Millennium Trilogy, and the more deeply I fall for Lisbeth Salander, the more I remember the cultural (and personal) impact of other lesbian and bisexual characters that were created by fellas.
Here’s a list of some of my favorites.
Lisbeth Salander, The Millennium Trilogy (Stieg Larsson)
The hype is all true: Bisexual computer hacker Lisbeth Salander is one of the baddest-ass, well-rounded feminist heroines ever. And Larsson’s ability to portray her as a sympathetic protagonist, even when she’s cleaving an axe into someone’s face, is masterful. Larsson, like Lisbeth, hates men who hate women. And that makes me love him.
Katchoo and Francine, Strangers in Paradise (Terry Moore)
Terry Moore got himself a reputation for being a man-basher more than once during SiP‘s run. Really, though, he is true storyteller, one who listens and faithfully records what his characters tell him. And Katchoo had some rightful, pent-up hostility toward dudes. Over the course of 114 issues, Moore created one of the most complex, heart-wrenching, emotionally satisfying lesbian relationships ever committed to paper.
Willow and Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Joss Whedon)
There is no lesbian couple more universally adored than Buffy’s Willow and Tara. Even now, years later, the fandom is still actively churning out fan videos and fan fiction to honor Joss Whedon’s lesbian characters. More than one AfterEllen.com writer has called Whedon a “male feminist.” He could easily get an honorary lesbian card, too, I’m sure.
Violet and Corky, Bound (Andy [and Lana] Wachowski)
There’s a reason Bound inevitably ends up on every “Hottest Sex Scenes In the History of the World” list. And it’s not because it’s some kind of pornographic male fantasy. Violet and Corky’s sex scene is satisfying in large part because their characters are so fully-realized before they do the deed. (Also, it’s really hot.)