Mad, Bad and Dangerous: Queering Lizzie Borden in Lizzie (2018)


  • Barbara Braid University of Szczecin


adaptation, bryce kass, lesbian, lizzie borden, lizzie, craig macneill, neo-victorian, queer, textualisation


The Borden murders committed in 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts, have sparked a number of neo-Victorian textualisations. From the perspective of the ‘lethal lesbian’ trope known in queer cinema, this article discusses the famous suspect in this case, Lizzie Borden (1860–1927), as depicted in Lizzie (2018, dir. Craig Macneill). It shows that the titular character (Chloë Sevigny) is queered in this film – not just by her lesbian relationship with the maid, Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart), but also as a madwoman and a spinster who repeatedly refuses to adhere to social and gender codes of nineteenth-century New England. The article examines these various facets of queer disruption of Victorian norms, complicating the discussion by employing an intersectional perspective which points out more nuanced aspects of power relations between characters and the ethical implications of casting female criminals as neo-Victorian, feminist, and/or queer heroines.