Autostraddle’s Favorite and Least Favorite Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans Women TV Characters of 2017

LEAST FAVORITE

Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor

Tara Chambler, The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead went from being a pretty OK show about zombies to an absolutely terrible show about a bunch of sweaty men who are constantly trying to acquire more guns, and it happened so gradually that I didn’t even notice until it was too late. Every week I watch this show so I can report back to Heather whether or not Tara’s going to die, because of course she’s going to die! She’s a completely disposable fringe character who’s had just about zero storyline ever since they shot her girlfriend in the eye with an arrow. I thought maybe she might be the last queer woman left alive, but then last season she met an entire lesbian village and sold them out so Rick could steal all their guns. Tara, I am going to enjoy watching you get ripped apart by zombies, and then hopefully I am going to stop watching this show.


Valerie Anne, TV Writer

Nyssa al Ghul, Arrow

NYSSA WAS DONE SO WRONG, Y’ALL. She was one of the strongest characters left on Arrow, and when everyone was on an island that blew up last year, fates were doled out to everyone but her. Some people died, some were put in comas, some escaped…and no one will tell me what happened to Nyssa. I can’t tell if they’re saving “what happened to Nyssa” as a Big Reveal, or if they decided probably she’s dead but are like, “It doesn’t count as burying your gay if you just…never mention them again.” DON’T GHOST YOUR GAYS, EITHER.

Everyone, American Horror Story: Cult

I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive Sarah Paulson for being so great that she got me to watch the entire season of AHS: Cult despite it being the bane of my existence the entire time. Also fuck Ryan Murphy for always having so many queer women on shows that make me want to carve my own eyeballs out. What’s a queer TV addict to do?!


Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Staff Writer

Colette Kimball-Kinney, The Mindy Project

Would I have watched the final season of The Mindy Project in its entirety if I wasn’t covering it for work? Probably not! It was bad! The show has never been good with respect to its queer characters, whose queerness only serves as a punchline most of the time. The final season, in particular, only acknowledged the fact that Colette is a lesbian when it was making a lazy joke about it. It became extremely tiresome extremely fast.


Heather Hogan, Senior Editor

Alison DiLaurentis and Emily Fields, Pretty Little Liars

If you’d told me Ali and Emily were going to end up together in the early days of this show I would have thrown them a wedding shower in my own home, but the way it all played out was so stupid and terrible. What happened was Emily donated her eggs to get money to go to college and A stole those eggs and gave them to Alison’s fake-doctor-husband who fertilized them with a psycho’s sperm and then raped and impregnated Alison with them while she was drugged up and tied to a bed and in his imaginary psychiatric hospital and Alison and Emily got married and had those babies and lived happily ever after. Isn’t that sweet?


Carmen, Staff Writer

Eliza Minnick, Grey’s Anatomy

Can we be honest with each other? I struggled coming up with a “worst” character. Overall, I think 2017 was pretty solid for queer television representation and a lot of fun to watch.

That said, there’s still a lot of room to grow for our representation on television. My #1 hope for 2018 is that we get a trans queer regular character somewhere (played by a trans actor, of course). I think that representation for queer women of color was plentiful this year, but uneven in execution. Kat Edison from The Bold Type got a beautiful, bold love story but she wasn’t written in ways that felt authentic from black lens. Nova Bordelon remains one of the best written black activists on television, but her queerness was an afterthought in Queen Sugar’s second season. I’m still not over casting a non-Latina actress in the role of Maggie Sawyer on Supergirl, and then deciding continue to portraying her as Latina on screen anyway. Intersectionality is vital when writing queer women of color on television, because these layers are a permanent reality in the off-screen lives of queer women of color. We don’t get to “be a person of color today” or “a queer person tomorrow”. We are all of ourselves, constantly. Television needs to catch up to that.

Ultimately though, I looked in my heart of hearts and went with Eliza Minnick. Why? Because she was 100%, delightfully, enjoyably, purposefully The Worst (TM).

There was once a time, not very long ago, that if a new lesbian or queer character appeared on television, then I felt obligated to defend her. But, Eliza was a villain. She was cocky and arrogant and wholly unlikeable She came to Grey’s Anatomy with the goal of dethroning Chief Webber (and yes, he will always be Chief Webber to me)! Then in the season 13 finale, like any good television villain, she was ceremonially defeated. It was blissfully cathartic.

I loved every moment that I hated her.


Natalie, Staff Writer

Kat Edison, The Bold Type

The first time it happens — in episode three (“The Woman Behind the Clothes”), when Kat’s taken aback by the heinous nature of online attacks — I raise a curious eyebrow. She’s a woman of color, with opinions, whose entire career is based around the Internet, and she’s just now realizing how vitriolic that place can be?!, I think. It seems absurd to me but I opt to cut the show a little slack…it’s new and they’re just finding their footing. Plus, the video from which Kat’s storyline is seemingly derived didn’t engage on the racial aspect either.

But the second time it happens — in the fourth episode (“If You Can’t Do It With Feeling”), when Kat punches a bigoted white man on the street, is arrested, while Adena scurries away, is subsequently lectured by her white female boss about her privilege and compelled to apologize — I find myself infuriated. I grab my phone and type out a quick text to a friend who I’d convinced to watch the show: do you think the writers forgot that Kat’s black? I’m hardpressed to think of a single moment of Kat’s story that wouldn’t be written exactly the same, if the actress that played Kat Edison was white… and that’s a huge problem.

Every black person wears their blackness differently — we are not a monolith, as the saying goes so I don’t expect Kat’s reaction to social media trolls or cops to be the same as mine. Her experience is unique, informed by her privilege as the light-skinned, educated, well-off daughter of two psychiatrists, but it’s still grounded in an America that openly flirts with — or, at its worst moments, fully embraces — white supremacy. To not engage, at all, about how walking through Trump’s America as a black woman presents specific challenges, makes Kat Edison’s character feel wholly inauthentic.

(And, yes, the complete erasure of Kat’s racial identity coupled with turning Alex into a magical negro and turning Adena, a minor character, into the lone representative for intersectional feminism, means that the seemingly progressive The Bold Type has a race problem…but that’s a larger discussion for another day…)

The death threats that Kat receives in “The Woman Behind the Clothes” wouldn’t be a new occurrence for her — it’s what women of color with opinions suffer through everyday on social media and Kat wouldn’t be immune from that. The fact that the episode doesn’t include a single racially-tinged threat among the litany that Kat receives, further reveals that The Bold Type doesn’t want to grapple with Kat’s identity at all… that it feels more comfortable in treating harassment as something universal when, frankly, it’s not. Kat should be allowed the space to be angry at Adena in “If You Can’t Do It With Feeling” because a black woman coming face-to-face with a bigoted white man and the police is at least as fraught as whatever sends Adena scurrying away. Kat’s faith in the justice system… that she, as a black woman, would be spared because she was right? What world is that and how can I get there?

The writers of The Bold Type clearly wanted to tell one overarching story about Kat Edison — the discovery of her sexuality and her love story with Adena — and that’s it. If Kat Edison was played by a white actress, maybe that’d be okay, but she’s not. By casting Aisha Dee, Kat Edison became an intersectional character and that necessitates intersectional storytelling. She is black and female and bisexual and American and she deserves to have all those identities represented. People who live their lives at intersections don’t get to shed all their other identities while interrogating one of them and the writers of The Bold Type shouldn’t be allowed to either.

Kristina Corinthos-Davis and Parker Forsyth, General Hospital

There are four types of couples in the soap world: the supercouple, the pair destined to find their way back to each other, no matter what drives them apart; the potential, the couple that, at times looks like a supercouple, but eventually the flame dies out; the “why-the-hell-not” couple, two people on the canvas tossed together for no discernable reason, usually reserved for gay characters and/or characters of color; and, finally, the the electric couple, the couple with amazing chemistry that’ll burn like a white hot light for a while before crashing spectacularly.

In all my years of watching daytime television, there’s never been a lesbian couple that’s fallen into that last group. The electric couple has been reserved for men who have affairs with their brother’s wives or women who hook up with the new guy working in the mail room… that is, until Kristina, a young Wesleyan co-ed, fell in love with her married lesbian English professor, Parker. They had all the elements of an electric couple — including that rare forbidden quality that makes you spend every second wondering if you should cheer for this pairing — but, ultimately, the relationship that should’ve crashed spectacularly just kinda fizzled out.

Fast forward to a year later and Parker’s moved to Port Charles and runs into her one-time lover right away. She’s newly divorced and Kristina — who’s barely had a storyline in a year, much less any romance — is single as well. They don’t fall into bed right away — Kristina’s understandably reluctant to re-engage with the woman who broke her heart — but they reconnect and show signs of turning from an electric couple into something more.

But then, the bottom falls out. The writing turns dreadful…some of the worst I’ve ever seen on a soap. The couple’s compelling (and problematic) history is, at best, rewritten and, at worst, completely ignored. Every interaction between the pair feels forced and/or recycled and they kiss with the enthusiasm of a kid forced to kiss his great aunt who smells like moth balls. Hell, when Parker’s teaching her class called “Women, Wit and Politics In Fiction From Rebecca West To Now,” she teach Jane Austen’s Emma, which precedes Rebecca West’s life by 77 years…and General Hospital couldn’t even be bothered to spell Austen’s name right on the prop book. It’s like they weren’t even trying to do this pairing justice.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, as one final show of disrespect to fans who’d waited a year for this story to resume, General Hospital shipped the couple off the canvas on National Coming Out Day.


Okay, your turn! Who were your favorite and least favorite TV characters of 2017?

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45 Comments

  1. Oh man so I think my favorite queer woman on TV this year was Waverly Earp (and Rosa Diaz but I still haven’t caught the most recent season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine yet.) I have to agree with AHS for least favourite – I loved Winter so so much but of course Ryan Murphy had to ruined it.

  2. UGH EMISON

    Exactly what you said, Heather. I have no idea how PLL managed to mangle what was once my favourite pairing SO BADLY that I ACTIVELY ROLLED MY EYES whenever they were on screen, but they did, so congrats I guess

    • They haven’t been my favorite pairing since like season one. What irks me isn’t that they ruined them, but that they robbed Emily, Paige and even Alison of their happy endings for them. Cause there’s no universe where being forced to raise a rape baby nobody wanted and losing the person you’re in love with and ending up forced in a relationship with literally your last resort counts as a happy ending.

  3. “Alex Danvers is the only character on my best-of list who wasn’t conceived and written by a queer woman…”
    Wait, wasn’t she both conceived and written by Ali Adler? You know, Sara Gilbert’s ex-wife?

    • I know who Ali Adler is, even outside of her relationship to Sara Gilbert. 🙂

      And yes, she was part of the team who created and wrote Alex, but I don’t think she’s written an episode since season one, which was before Alex came out. She did EP for a while but she left in the middle of this season to work on two other projects for CBS.

    • I’m fairly certain Andrew Kreisberg owns the rights to Alex the character as “Alex Danvers, the adopted sister of Supergirl who is a DEO agent”. He spoke specifically about her as a character he created, together with Diggle from Arrow. He comes from a comic book background where legal ownership of the characters you created is really important because it means he will get royalties every time she is used in another context, such as the comic books. Of course when he created her she wasn’t gay yet.

  4. I’m so, so happy Roberta Colindrez’s portrayal of Devon was mentioned. While the show was for sure… a bit strange… her performance was revelatory. It honestly caught me so off guard (but I was very on board.) (Kevin Bacon being nominated for that show instead of her seems so cruel, as well.)

    I also appreciate Tara from TWD being a least fav because I can’t fully quit that show BECAUSE of her. I don’t want to watch it (and I mostly do not) but I keep on checking in like a dummy.

    • I am too. I watched the series and then searched Autostraddle to check what had been written here about Roberta Colindrez and I Love Dick and i was surprised how little coverage it got. It was a fairly good (and yes, weird, like I may never stop uncomfortably laughing inside about the “gaping” presentation) show and I loved her character.

  5. Faves: ROSA! ELENA! My babies!

    Least Faves: Waverly (I don’t like the wishy-washy handling of it all), Eleanor and Tahani (either go there or don’t, just please stop the baiting).

    Let’s hope I can add more next year. Man, I have some binging to do.

  6. Some really good choices there.

    Farewell Cosima (and Delphine of course). Being in the UK, Niska wasn’t this year for me, we got Humans S2 this time of year in 2016 but what could easily have felt like a throwaway character trait “the token queer” actually worked really well through the whole series in all kinds of ways. Thank you for reminding me about both Niska and Astrid and Humans – I’m looking forward to S3 now. And Waverly for my third choice really.

    I think I’m lucky – I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, so I’ve missed a lot of the bad ones you’ve mentioned, although I’ve also missed some of the good ones too. Although it makes me sad to see Nyssa on the list.

  7. This is fantastic. I loved the part about your favorite characters (and agree with all of them! Rosa! Waverly! Nicole! Elena!). But weirdly I think I loved the part about your least favorite more? Maybe that says something about where we are in queer tv that it can be so satisfying to dig into the missteps, missed opportunities, and weird calls, without feeling like the year as a whole was bad.

    I especially/mostly commented to say YES re Kat on the Bold Type. I still love her/the show/the storyline, but I sent SO many angry/confused texts to friends when watching her scenes. Especially that scene where her white boss explains to her that cops can be bad (?!?!?!). It’s so weird, because the show is super willing to go there with Issues in general, but it’s like they decided they could only deal with one Issue per episode? And race was never the one they chose? I notice this problem on a lot of the CW/Freeform’s shows, but like, even on Riverdale where always talk about the justice system without ever mentioning race, they at least mention that the black mayor has faced racist harrassment in the past. It’s WILD that they don’t even go that far for Kat.

  8. I’m so grateful for Orphan Black and Cosima and Delphine will be with me always. I have a feeling Waverly and Nicole will be the same. Pretty awesome year of TV! Elena Alvarez is definitely my new favorite this year!

  9. I’m so glad my baby Niska made the list. I’d die for Niska. Humans really is such an underrated show. I can’t wait for season three.

    Now, I’ve talked about my absolute disdain for The CW many times on here. Usually in relation to The 100 and Supergirl and even Legends to a lesser extent. I stand by that. I have MANY issues with those shows but Alex Danvers as a character and Chyler Leigh as an actress are not one of them. I love Alex/Chyler. She is literally the only reason I continue to keep up with that shit show despite it’s many Mon-El related flaws. And their will always be a special place in my heart for Sara Lance, as a character, even if I don’t necessarily agree with how her bisexuality is portrayed across the Arrowverse. Having Caity Lotz basically carry Legends was the best decision The CW has ever made. I hope she becomes after a bigger star when she eventually moves on in her career.

    And what else can you say about The Bold Type that hasn’t already been. I’m looking forward to it’s return.

  10. Moira from Handmaid’s Tale would be on my list of favorites. And not just because she was Samira Wiley. She brought a lot of spark to the show, regardless of how devastating her story was. I felt like the show just got a little bit more alive every time she was on screen. I am therefore terrified about Season 2.

    In totally agreement on Bold Type’s Kat. That made me uncomfortable the whole time, so much so that I was honestly a little stumped by all the effusive praise for the show. (Adena is great, of course, but you know what I mean.)

    Also I basically just blanketly adore everyone on One Mississippi.

  11. I’ll throw Mr.Robot’s Dom DiPierro into the ring, because she ticks all of my lonely, socially inept FBI agent boxes, and in a world without heroes, she’s still a Girl Scout.
    Also she needs some love thrown her way. Like, desperately.

  12. I get all the Waverly love but surely Nicole Haught deserves some too. To paraphrase Nedley, yeah it’s cool to fight demons but someone needs to protect the every day folk of Purgatory.

    I pretty much agree with everyone’s likes and dislikes. I am right there with you Heather on the Emily and Alison of it all.

    • Same. I always saw Emison as a punishment for Alison and at first it seemed like a reward for Emily, but then Paily happened and it was so real and genuine that it outweighed any benefit Emison had carried and soon I started to really bond with Paily and sympathize with the both of them and Emison seemed more and more like a punishment for Emily. But even after all that happened and the ways Emily tortured Paige, I still didn’t think she was bad enough to deserve that punishment. After all, the thing she had with Paige was real and Emison had always been a sham. And even if Emily didn’t deserve it, Paige did. That’s why I was completely gutted when they ended up the way they did. I think Paige deserved one last ‘best character’ win for being so mature and polite about this whole thing rather than reacting the way a normal person would and smashing the windows of Alison’s car.

  13. Nicole’s storyline on Fresh Off The Boat is so delightful! Definitely my favorite surprise of the year- most of the time I seek out a show for queer content, but I’ve been watching FoB from day 1, content with erstwhile Denim Turtle scenes and lowkey Jessica/Honey subtext (okay, that might just be in my head).

  14. I think my favorite has been Rosa Diaz as it’s the most fresh on my mind, but also because it was really well done, in not just one, but two episodes so far. My only real hesitation with the Rosa Dias is the fact the show humanizes and in a way pro police propaganda. Sure Stephanie has a lot of say in her character, but it’s still trying to say cops are funny, nice, and cool like regular people. Maybe I’m a bit jaded. I haven’t seen enough Doubt(only two episodes or how many aired before they burned it off?), but Lavern Cox is always a delight.

  15. D E V O N. I Love Dick was possibly my fave new show of 2017. It captured me in a way that nothing else has? Couldn’t tear my eyes off the screen. But yes, Devon is my ideal butch.

    Shout outs to Nova (queen of my heart, queen of arms) and to Rosa Diaz ofc.

    Also, I miss The 100, when is it coming back?!

    Alsoooo I knew someone would pick Minnick as The Worst. But I actually prefer her to Carina, who I think is just kind of empty? Like her only personality trait thus far is ‘likes sex, studies orgasms’.

    Ofglen, the fucking scene where she watches her girlfriend get hanged?! my soul fell out of my body.

    And Niska! wow, I loved Humans soooo much and can’t wait for its return.

    TV has for sure been one of the most comforting things about this year (the only comforting thing??)

    • I second that. Minnick was better than Carina and far better than perfect Penny. I resent that name by the way. In my books the only character who’s ever come close to being perfect while also having a suitably alliterative name is Paige McCullers. Perfect Paige. Has a much better ring to it. I like Precious better of course. Precious Paige. But perfect is just as suitable.

  16. I really enjoyed Anna Torv as Dr. Carr in Mindhunters. She lit up every scene she was in with her sheer presence. And it was nice to see her work and expertise frequently being what provided legitimacy to what her male co-workers were doing.

  17. Awesome list. As much as I love the faves, the least favorites and the reasons why was SO INTERESTING.

    Any chance you’d elaborate on a A+ podcast? I’d love to hear a conversation on any part of the above.

    Thanks for being willing to share what you found problematic, and pushing for better.

  18. Completely agree with the whole list, but there are a few oldies I would add! My personal faves Nomi and Amanita got engaged this year (swoon!) and were adorable in Sense8 season 2!

    Also to add to the least favorites list- this season of OITNB was very uneven in their representation of queer women. I loved the vauseman engagement, but I really don’t like what they’re doing with Nicky and Lorna, like come on give a girl a break! They also have a long way to go after killing Poussey.

    Loved the list! and I love the fact that a list this long doesn’t even cover all of the queer characters this year- Progress!!

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