Feminine Butch TV and Movie Characters Are Having a Moment

When I think of Dot-Marie JonesGlee character Coach Beiste, my first impulse is to feel terribly embarrassed for her. I haven’t watched many of her episodes this season, but from the recaps Beiste sounds like a swarthy, laughable woman who’s failed at being female — the football players think about her to get rid of their boners, and Mr. Schue has to give her a pity smooch because she’d never been kissed. It just seems like a very nasty role — but different from Sue Sylvester’s nastiness because Beiste is the target of that cruelty.

Then I hear she’s one of the few actors appearing in the Glee panel at Comic-Con, and I think, Hasn’t Ryan Murphy been mean enough to this woman? Does he have to drag her out as a second-stringer? Add that to the fact that she appeared in the Are You There Vodka?, it’s Me, Chelsea pilot as a typical women’s prison inmate with a crush on Laura Prepon, and I figured the poor woman was getting horribly pigeonholed.

Then all of a sudden — and I couldn’t tell you what changed — I realized that Jones seems to be having a hell of a good time with this, especially in her cheeky photo shoot for Cosmo. Beiste has become a much more accepted character and an actual role model for the football kids now that they’re actually winning. She’s now Will’s platonic lady friend, and she even got her own solo.

And you know who she might be able to credit some of that success to? Melissa McCarthy‘s Bridesmaids character Megan. I admit that I had a similar knee-jerk reaction when I first saw McCarthy as the farting, rough-edged bridesmaid in the trailer: I assumed they were making fun of her for being heavy. Turns out neither one was true: Megan’s size doesn’t warrant mention in the film, and her coarse behavior is emphasized so that the feminine touches to her character come out that much clearer.

Because even though she modeled Megan after Guy Fieri, what I noticed both times I watched the movie was Megan’s predilection for pearls and an unchipped French manicure. She seemed a bit, dare I say it, girly. She’s also the only bridesmaid who can really level with Annie (Kristen Wiig) after she ruins the bridal shower.

As Lilit originally pointed out in the above post about Beiste, these women defy gender norms by being more aggressive but still nursing their inner romantics. Though they’ve had to prove themselves as engaging people moreso than a conventionally beautiful characters would have to, the important thing is that they’re no longer being mocked, but are being celebrated.

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