From the LWTV Archives: Queer TV Nuns

From the LWTV Archives: Queer TV Nuns

Welcome back to “From the LWTV Archives,” a column dedicated to studying and highlighting moments from queer TV history. This week, in honor of the second season of Warrior Nun, I decided to take a look back at other queer nuns that have graced our television screens.

This post is sponsored by my personal obsession with the new season of Warrior Nun. This will be a spoiler-free post but, if you haven’t watched yet, please do. The fandom is fighting for a season 3 on Netflix (an impossible feat for a queer led show these days) and we could use the extra views.

As a queer tv writer with a distaste of religion, I am amused by my own current obsession with nun storylines. But we can all blame (thank) Warrior Nun for my newfound appreciation for nuns falling in love with each other!

Now, without further ado, here is a list of every queer nun in the LWTV database, in date order:

Nuns Who Have Tasted the Rainbow

Ruth in Hinter Gittern (2001-2002)

The nun that started it all. Ruth Bächtle in the German soap, Hinter Gittern (English translation: Behind Bars). This show about a women’s prison ran for 16 seasons, starting in 1997, and had 19 queer characters! Go Germany!

Ruth was a regular character from 2001-2002, portrayed by Katrein Frenzel. She was a nun who found herself in prison (I have not personally seen the show, so I do not know her particular crime). No spoilers but, if you decide to watch this show, don’t expect Ruth’s story to end happily.

Sister Mary in Blue Bloods (2014)

A classic one-off queer in a crime drama, Sister Mary appeared in season 5, episode 3 of Blue Bloods. Blue Bloods is still on air with 13 seasons so far.

Sister Mary (portrayed by Heather Burns) meets with Police Commissioner Frank Reagan to discuss the closure of the middle school where she teaches. He agrees to speak with the Archdiocese but, meanwhile, he deals with another case that leads him to publicly disagree with the Church’s view on homosexuality. When Reagan meets with Sister Mary again to apologize for his inability to keep her school open, Mary opens up and proudly tells him that she had a girlfriend before leaving her home for the convent.

Juana Inés in Juana Inés (2016)

As a queer history nerd, I can’t believe I haven’t watched this miniseries yet. Juana Inés, a show produced in Mexico in 2016, details the life of Juana Inés de la Cruz. Juana was a real-life nun, writer, and political figure in 17th century Mexico. She was portrayed in the miniseries by Arcelia Ramírez and Arantza Ruiz.

And, better yet, she’s got a girl! The show also includes her relationship with María Luisa, a woman who eventually succeeded in getting Juana Inés’ works published in Spain.

Warrior Nun (2020)

We’ve made it to the reason why we are here today: Warrior Nun. This show includes multiple queer characters and follows the story of the chosen Halo Bearer (also known as the Warrior Nun), a person entrusted with supernatural powers who works with the Order of the Cruciform Sword (OCS) to keep the world safe. The OCS is made up of a bunch of nuns who kick a lot of ass. And I am obsessed with all of them.

For some reason, Warrior Nun kicked off (what I am calling) the year of the Nun. As you will see below, three more shows debuted queer nuns in the year 2020.

Cursed (2020-2021)

Cursed was a Netflix show that lasted only one season (surprise, surprise) that featured a twist on the classic Arthurian legend. Based on the book of the same name, the story is told through the eyes of Nimue, a teenage heroine with a mysterious gift who is destined to become the powerful Lady of the Lake.

All of the original main characters from the legend appear in this show, including Morgana, aka Sister Igraine, who is a nun. She is portrayed by Shalom Brune-Franklin.

The show features a second queer nun in Celia, who aids Morgana in her plans for a rebellion. Celia was portrayed by Sophie Harkness.

Granchester (2020)

Are you looking for more nun girlfriends? Because Granchester can deliver that. Granchester is a British crime drama that follows a clergyman who finds himself investigating a series of mysterious wrongdoings in his small village of Grantchester.

In episode 6 of season 5, he investigates an unconventional nunnery where two lesbians are hiding out: Sister Frances (portrayed by Adeyinka Akinrinade) and Sister Michael (portrayed by Andrea Vall).

Joan in Van Der Valk (2020)

The most recent nun in the LWTV database comes from another British crime drama. This time, it is Van Der Valk, a remake of the 1960s show of the same name. It follows a Dutch detective who takes on criminal cases in Amsterdam.

Our final nun comes to us in the second episode of the first season. Van der Valk is contacted following the death of a young woman. The investigation brings him into contact with a nun interested in erotica, aka Sister Joan. What a note to end on!

Impact

Juana Inés walked so our warrior nuns could run. And then all the other queer nuns came running, too.

I can’t get over the explosion of queer TV nuns in 2020. I tried to research what may have led to this sudden interest in religious sisters and have not come up with a simple answer. Was it the general trend in society to be more open to questioning the Catholic religion? 2021 even saw the release of the film Benedetta, which follows the true story of Mother Superior Benedetta Carlini, another 17th century nun (like Juana Inés) who was investigated for her relationship with another nun. If you have a potential answer to why media suddenly became obsessed with queer nuns, please comment below!

Final note: Watch Warrior Nun on Netflix. You won’t regret it.

[As always, this column is based on data provided in LWTV. If you have more information on a show/character that has not been included in our database, please let us know!]

About NikkiT

Nikki is an archivist by day, queer TV addict by night. Her first dive into fan content was when she ran a secret Xanga blog dedicated to pictures of Lorelai Gilmore in the 7th grade. She has never looked back.

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