Keiran Crying

A celebration of human emotion. An ode to crying in all its forms. Crying over Passion, Poetry, Places and Politics

Sweeney Todd’s Mrs Lovett is a gay icon and heres why

Sweeney Todd’s Mrs Lovett is a gay icon and heres why

I have never been very interested in ladies, they’ve never been to my liking. But like most aspects of life, there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, some people only like ketchup with French fries. I only like women who are beautifully gothic and prone to baking their neighbours into baked goods.

She just gets me, you know?

But I am getting ahead of myself. What I mean to say, is that there are some figures throughout life that seem to resonate with us on a deeper level. Whether we find them through pop culture or forms of entertainment, the common denominator is usually the sort of enigmatic energy that a person or character exudes. Especially as queer people, having these iconic figures to identify with, can quite honestly be the difference between life and death.

Just for the record, I lied. I actually love Women. Hell, my Mother is one!

But in particular, I have always been so awestruck with female characters who are powerful and mysterious, usually to the level of absurdity.

I must have been about 11 when I was introduced to the pale face and ample bosom of Mrs Lovett. The leading lady in all iterations of Sondheim’s Darkly comic musical ‘Sweeney Todd’.

I never truly understood why Mrs Lovett spoke to my soul but as I have gotten older, I had an epiphany. Mrs Lovett, to me, is what Dorothy is to many a queer person throughout the decades (myself included. Those ruby slippers? Stunning). She is an underappreciated gay icon and just in case you have your doubts, (understandably, she is an accessory to hundreds of murders), I will tell you why Mrs Lovett is and deserves gay icon status.

Mrs Lovett, gay icon and the original Fag hag

Mrs Lovett is the ally this world needs. She saves a young work house boy, Toby, from being slaughtered by her lover, after Todd kills the boys ‘master’. Oops! 

He helps her around the Pie shop, instead of singing, dancing and wearing a wig in order to convince onlookers to give him money.

Hmmm… If I didn’t know any better I’d have said Toby was a fully-fledged drag act at the ripe old age of twelve. 

For Lovett to take him in and give him the nurturing he needs, reminds me of how queer people often have chosen family. People who give them hope and help them stop hiding who they really are- usually following being disowned or excommunicated by their biological family or religion. All due to their identification as a queer person.

The covert love story presented is actually between Toby and Mrs Lovett. They find genuine love and safety amongst a pitch-black flurry of chaos.

And he gets to snuggle up in those tig old bitties. Now tell me you’re not jealous.


You could say Mrs Lovett is somewhat misunderstood… quite literally. As she’s barrelling through the verses of ‘Worst pies in London’ at a break neck pace, you can hardly tell one word from the next.

But she is always underestimating herself too. ‘Popping pussies into pies’ in order to emulate the successes of others but she soon realises she doesn’t have to do that. She has her own path.

 Even if that path has crimson carpets and ends in her body getting thrown like a ragdoll into an open wood burner.

At least she followed her heart, right? An inspiration if I ever saw one.

   Or maybe her icon status comes from a sense of familiarity.  She is in love with a man who is hung up on his late wife.

 Ignore the fact Lovett lied about her being poisoned and killed. She’s only human.

She is desperate for the requited love of a man. As many are. But more specifically a man who kills customers after he trims their split ends. Not forgetting that for ‘the best barber in London’, he is in the desperate need of a haircut himself.

I think that’s the real red flag here.

Poor thing! She should have run when she had the chance.

Our girl got pipes and loves a reveal

Just like myself, stepping out of the closet as a faggoty preteen, with a pink boa around my throat, Mrs Lovett loves a song and a big reveal.  She reveals in the closing scene (after Todd recognises the corpse of his wife, whose throat he’d just slit by mistake), that she in fact lied about Todd’s wife dying because… duh, Mrs Lovett is in love.

Maybe I relate to this as a queer person as coming out of the closet can sometimes feel like a death wish. Like finally wearing your heart on your sleeve, after so many years of keeping it caged up like a poor budgie.

We love a Dreamer

We all have dreams, right? Whether we actually want to vocalise or admit to them is another issue entirely. But there is some part of the human spirit that seems to admire unapologetic ambition or, more fittingly in this case, delusion.

In the song ‘By the Sea’, Lovett is in a daze dreaming of the perfect life she will have once her and the ‘Demon Barber’ Todd are married. Visions of picnic blankets and white picket fences flood her head, as she sings her desires to Todd, who despite her passion, remains disengaged. Typical man, aye?

This is all she can focus on. Bearing in mind that her betrothed is simultaneously murdering men, which she then bakes into pies. Benefitting her business wildly as you can probably imagine.

What I’m getting at here is Mrs Lovett’s obscene capacity to remain positive amongst the muck and drear of real life.

Her determination is flawed, yes. But it is there nonetheless.

Who knew we could find positivity amongst blood and guts? But there it is, further solidifying Mrs Lovett as a gay icon and all round badass.

Gay icons filled that brassiere

Beyond the charming character and gorgeous garments, are the decades of iconic actresses that have played Mrs Lovett. A line-up of gay icons in their own right, bringing her to life in every iteration. Always in a unique- yet-unmistakably familiar way.

My first run in with Nellie Lovett was following the release of Tim Burtons ‘Sweeney Todd’. Where Helena Bonham Carter, adorns the stained apron and ashen cheeks. Other actresses including Patti Lapone and Angela Lansbury have filled those scuffed up boots in the past.

So, taking these already legendary women, with a world of success in musical theatre and then stacking that on this character, with all the attributes of a gay man’s wet dream, we transcend irony and Mrs Lovett is cemented as a queer icon (at least to me).

Hang her up in the hall of fame already. She’s waited long enough.

And if not?

Well, let’s just say you might be Lunch tomorrow.

Heres a similar guest post I did about Les Mis and it’s own gay icons


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