If there’s one thing queer women have in common, it’s our unyielding willingness to talk people’s ear off about which movie characters we believe to be gay. (Looking at you, Missy Peregrym in Stick It.) Last week, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again hit theaters and became the latest victim — or beneficiary — of such theorizing.
Fans believe that Meryl Streep’s Donna, whose younger self is played by Lily James in the sequel, is a bisexual icon. When asked about the fan theory, James was totally on board with the idea.
The idea was sparked by the first musical number in the sequel, “When I Kissed The Teacher,” when young Donna plants one on her female professor, played by Celia Imrie. (Fun fact: Imrie plays Rachel’s mother in the classic lesbian rom-com Imagine Me & You (2005), which was written and directed by the same writer/director behind Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.)
When a reporter brought up Donna’s newfound status as a bisexual icon, Lily James told The Hollywood Reporter, “God, wow! I had no idea. That’s amazing. That’s so interesting because I never thought about that.”
She elaborated, “I think in a way the song was more of an act of rebellion, rather than literal. It was sort of like two fingers up to the establishment, and she breaks out of her valedictorian gown, being the first female valedictorian, and breaks out into a rock song. But that’s pretty cool. I kind of love that. I think it just shows what it can mean to everyone and all sorts of people. I love it to be celebrated in that way. I’m sure Donna would have been up for it.”
So Mamma Mia gives no explanation for why Donna changes the pronouns in “When I Kissed The Teacher” which leads me to the conclusion that she is bisexual. In this essay I will-
— Sydney (@squidthesyd) July 22, 2018
my goal in life is to give off the same chaotic bisexual power young donna has in mamma mia here we go again
— lorena (@Iibragf) July 25, 2018
Is the constant Tumblr-chatter about what characters are canonically gay, who should be canonically gay, “and here’s the GIFs to prove it” a product of queer women being left out of mainstream narratives our entire lives? Probably.
But Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again had so many opportunities to be gayer, and really that’s all we want–for stuff to be gayer. Colin Firth’s character Harry is gay, but he only exchanged a mere furtive glance with another man in the film. According to the stans, Donna Sheridan is now canonically bisexual, and I’m grateful for the “When I Kiss The Teacher” smooch, but hopefully, in the inevitable next seven Mamma Mia films, we’ll see a lot more from bi icon Donna and gay dad Harry.