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Kate McKinnon, Gillian Anderson, and Other Keymasters Of Our Queerness

By Riley Silverman | Ghostbusters | July 21, 2016 |


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I fully admit to being downright thirsty in my response to Ghostbusters’ Jillian Holtzmann. From the conversations I’ve had about her online and with friends, and even among my fellow Pajiba writers, I’m far from alone in that. Sure, maybe I’m the only one who literally has bought Pringles because of the movie, but admirers are out there.

Which got me thinking about the role this character is going to play for a generation of younger queer ladies. Teenage girls who might still be figuring themselves out went to the multiplex this weekend to see Ghostbusters and left with a lot of thoughts. Like, a lot of thoughts, y’all. I am calling it now, in 2026 we can do a poll of openly queer women and ask them if there was a pop culture tentpole they can remember that unlocked a lot of their feelings, and there will definitely be a tidal wave of Holtzmann responses.

There’s something intriguing and delightful to me about hearing other queer women talk about their first on-screen lady crush. Of that magical moment when suddenly it feels like the world has shifted on its axis and everything changes. When an actress strolls up to us, declares herself the Keymaster. She doesn’t ask us in that wimpy Rick Moranis voice. She just goes ahead and opens that damn gate. Maybe with a little hair pulling if you’re into that.

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For me, there are two that come to mind immediately: The first being Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin. I’ve written before how the Ivy and Harley Quinn teamups on Batman the Animated Series were “baby queer Riley’s first femslash headcanon,” but the trance of Uma’s Ivy dance when she slips out of the gorilla costume still has a hold on me. When I watched that movie again to write about it for this site, I had to pause the movie and take a walk.

And then there’s this moment from Cruel Intentions:

It’s certainly a scene full of its share of intended male gaze, and also let’s be honest, part of an era of late ’90s film and TV making that thought the idea of having women kissing onscreen was oh so naughty and radical. I know all of this. It still got me. While I was still in for several years of confusion and denial, I remember so clearly sitting in the theater when that kiss happened and not knowing what to do, what this feeling was. I know it got plenty of cheers and howls from men in the theater, but what I felt was different. I didn’t want to be a fly on the wall watching this happening. I wanted to be Selma Blair. I’d have even been willing to star in Zoe, Duncan, Jack, & Jane in order to earn my place in that kiss.

I put out a blast on Twitter looking for queer-identified ladies to tell me who their Keymasters were. I can’t say I was surprised by the responses of Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien, Eliza Dushku as Faith on Buffy The Vampire Slayer , Xena of course, Salma Hayek in Dusk Till Dawn, Foxy Brown era Pam Grier, plus a surprising amount of replies in a short amount of time that were all about this Vanity Fair cover:

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Which, of course it was.

And then of course, there’s Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully.

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The resident skeptic of The X-Files had a magnetic pull, she was like the All Along The Watchtower of a generation of Final Fives. Not unlike Jillian Holtzmann, she was never really presented as “sexy” in a traditional way. She was almost always professionally dressed, was always pretty committed to doing her job and keeping things legitimate. But Anderson’s portrayal of this character just oozed a sexy confidence that drew us in like a magnet, ignited a passionate fire that burned as red as the dye she had to use in her hair. While Mulder and Scully shippers were legion and the show and movies followed their path (pre-revival) there was a not so quiet alternative cabal of those ladies whose only One True Paring for Scully was with themselves.

And in a way that brings it all full circle, tying this all together so wonderfully that it actually feels like it was scripted. Included in that cabal of Scully lovers was Kate McKinnon, who actually dressed as the character as a child:

It wasn’t just the cosplay either. In a video from the same 2008 Celesbian Interviews series that featured the epic hair pulling instruction, McKinnon actually credits Anderson’s performance as being her Keymaster (well, she doesn’t use the term that I’m clearly jumping through hoops using to tie it all back in to Ghostbusters, but you get the point.)

This may be the single most satisfying internet rabbit hole that I’ve ever gone down. I literally never want to stop thinking about it. If you’re any flavor of queer, I’d love to hear who your Keymaster was in the comments.

Riley Silverman knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of a Sloar that day, she can tell you!


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