In a world so determined to erase us, it can be difficult to find content with lesbian romances. But we have always existed, in all time periods, in all places. A good way to remind yourself is a lesbian period piece marathon. And with Portrait of a Lady on Fire making its way into cinemas, as well as the lesbian cinematic vault, now’s a great time to watch historical lesbian romances to get you in the mood. We’ll get you started with six period dramas featuring a lesbian couple.
Anne Lister and Ann Walker, Gentleman Jack
Don’t act so surprised that the ladies from Gentleman Jack are first on our list. The Ann/es gave us the happy ending we deserve. Set in England in the 1800’s, Anne struggled to live truthfully in an unforgiving society. But she power walked her way through all that. Can’t hear the hear the haters when you’re too far ahead. The show gave us a well-rounded look into the legendary Anne Lister. She wasn’t perfect — she was a landlord after all. She had her share of heartbreaks and her relationship with Ann wasn’t all smooth sailing. Anne really did have to bring that damned giant thermometer with her on holiday. But that’s what makes her so endearing. Watching her romance Ann Walker was a treat. The tenderness between the two was extraordinary. Every lesbian today should channel Miss Lister’s confidence. Maybe you won’t be able to walk anywhere in 25 minutes, but you just might be able to talk to that woman you’re crushing on. While most of the show is quite pleasant to watch, there are depictions of self-harm. Fortunately, none of our lesbians die in this one.
Max and Eleanor/Max and Anne, Black Sails
Do you ever wish Pirates of the Caribbean was more homosexual? If you said yes, I’ve got the show for you. Black Sails takes place in the early 1700s and is primarily set in Nassau. When the show begins, Max is already in an established relationship with Eleanor. But as the show progresses their relationship deteriorates due to Eleanor’s decisions. Have no fear, in comes Anne Bonny dressed in impeccable pirate fashion. Max and Anne have their ups and downs, just like every couple. But, unlike many couples, their downs often come with the added danger of having stolen thousands of pounds of Spanish gold and waging war with the English navy. Despite all that Max and Anne patch things up. And if that wasn’t enough for you, the main character, Captain Flint, is also gay. He gets a happy ending, too! A show where both a gay man and a lesbian get a happy ending? Is it too good to be true? Well, there are some graphic scenes and good amount of heterosexual nonsense to wade through, but in the end it felt worth it.
Sue Trinder and Maude Lilly, Fingersmith
The two-part mini-series based on the book of the same name takes place in Victorian England. If you want something with earth-shattering plot twists, this is the period drama for you. Raised by thieves, Sue trained to become a pickpocket, or a fingersmith. As lesbian professions go, that is probably on the top of the list. Meanwhile, Maude grew up in a wealthy countryside home. Sue agrees to take up the position as her maid as part of a scheme to steal her inheritance. But of course the two fall in love. If you’ve never read the book, oh honey you got a big storm coming. The series full of twists and turns that keep your interest despite the seemingly sleepy backdrop of the English countryside. Through all these twists, Sue and Maude make it out alive and well. The ending is overall, quite satisfying.
Izumi Hideko and Sook-hee, The Handmaiden
If you liked Fingersmith, you’re gonna like The Handmaiden. Because this period drama was based on the same book. Set in Japanese occupied Korea, the movie is more or less the same as the original. In this version, Sook-hee becomes a maid for Lady Izumi Hideko. As expected, these two fall in love. But that’s where the similarities end. Instead of finding out the hard way, the ladies tell each other of their own plots. They team up to hatch a scheme to exact revenge onto men who wanted nothing more than to use them for their own personal gain. Good for them. In the end, the couple runs away together. But be warned, while this movie was based on Fingersmith, it is much more graphic than its British counterpart. If you can handle that, it’s worth it to see these two have their happy ending while the men who manipulated them get exactly what they deserved.
Elisa Sanchez Loriga and Marcela Garcia Ibeas, Elisa & Marcela
Set in Spain, the biographical drama tells the story of two women in love who passed as a heterosexual couple in order to marry in 1901. They became the first recorded same-sex couple to be married in Spain. This movie is even in black and white to give it extra vintage vibes. The movie starts in 1885 when the two meet at school. Their friendship blossoms into a romance. But of course, they need to keep this a secret. When Marcela’s parents become suspicious of her relationship with Elisa, they send her away. Fools. Don’t you know lesbians thrive in long distance relationships? Marcela returns and the couple decide to live their lives together. Their plan? Elisa disguises herself as Mario so they can get married. Since it’s a retelling of historical events, it reminds us of the hardships lesbians had to endure just to live their lives. You’re left wondering if we’ve really come so far when so many of us still have to hide.
Honorable Mention: Kelly and Yorkie, Black Mirror – “San Junipero”
The ‘80s count as a period in time, so why not include “San Junipero?” It was one of the few Black Mirror episodes with a happy ending, and it featured a same-sex couple. The viewer is taken back to the ‘80s where Yorkie meets Kelly in a club. So you know this episode if full of ‘80s bops. But not is as it seems. San Junipero is actually a virtual reality where one’s consciousness is able to live after death. Back in the future, Kelly finds out a car accident paralyzed Yorkie. The accident happened after her parents reacted poorly to her coming out. She wishes to live in San Junipero permanently, but her parents will not allow it. Her plan was to marry her male nurse so he can consent for her. Kelly offers to marry her instead. Yorkie can now enter the simulation permanently. Kelly has some hesitations. But eventually, she decides to enter San Junipero as well to reunite with Yorkie. Sure, in reality both women die via euthanasia. But, are they truly dead if their consciousness lives on? This one will have you crying in the frozen food aisle when “Heaven is a Place on Earth” plays in the grocery store.
They’ll Remember Us in Another Time
We have always existed, no matter how much people want to convince us otherwise. We will continue to exist, no matter hard hard they try to erase us. Watching period dramas set in the past (or even the future) reminds us of that. Though, it is an absolute crime that we’ve yet to see a lesbian adventure set during the time of Sappho, but we’ll take what we can get. In any case, this was just one short list. Tell us which period drama featuring a lesbian couple is your favorite!