Sam Rutledge is a die hard McLeod’s Daughters fan. Here she posits her (entirely canon and correct) theory that all the characters in the show are, in fact, gay.
If you somehow managed to miss every single episode of McLeod’s Daughters when it aired, because you didn’t have a television or you had better taste than me, let me describe it to you: it was an early-mid ’00s look at life on a sheep and beef farm in western Australia, rife with sexual tension and horse butts. And I don’t mean it was a soap opera set on a farm where a lot of extremely tangential things that could easily fit into an episode of Shortland Street happened. Nor was it an excuse for clothes to come off and the audience to witness several steamy rolls in the literal hay every episode. This show is about FARMS.
I mean, it’s about camp drafting and tomato chutney gone wrong, and losing sheep and feral bulls and horse breeding programmes. It’s about sibling relationships and land rivalries and ‘we didn’t have a good time at the sales this year’ drama. It’s surprisingly well-researched and feels authentic enough that I could actually believe some of the writers have set foot on a farm before.
McLeod’s was appointment TV for me for years; I watched the clock like a nerdy preteen hawk, desperate to kick the six people who lived in my house out of the living room. As a bona fide Horse Gal and, as I would slightly later discover, extremely gay, there was something so magical about watching a show that I felt had been made specifically for me. It was filled with horses and beautiful women and more women, who were beautiful, and they rode the horses and had beautiful hair and faces and I loved them. (Listen I know it seems obvious that I was gay now, but I swear that was my total thought process at the time and I never considered it weird at all.)
The first three seasons McLeod’s Daughters centred on Claire and Tess McLeod, two sisters who may have ended up being half-sisters, full sisters, cousins or all of the above by the end of the show. The McLeods were as numerous as hydra heads – every time one died or went to Argentina another two would pop up in their place, impossible to eradicate.
Tess and Claire had been estranged, but when their dad died and Tess saw the opportunity to make some hot dollar and buy a bunch of La-Z-Boys she called in to see her sis, a classic soft butch and perpetual bachelorette.
Oh right, sorry, did I also mention that everyone on this show is gay?
I guess it’s not ‘technically’ ‘canon’, but as an Official Gay Person, I can say with confidence: this show is absolutely rank with homos. It’s a degustation of gay. Even the theme song includes the cherished lyrics ‘you’re not alone, ‘cause I’ll be there, whooOOOAAA oooh OOHHHH’ – a gay refrain if I ever heard it – which segues into approximately 42 weekly minutes of distinctly gay behaviour by every character on screen. If you played a ‘spot the homoerotic subtext’ drinking game with this show you would be toasted within ten minutes. Just absolutely slaughtered.
Tess, the city hottie, arrives at the Drover’s Run ranch and spends the first episode running around in a dress with literally no bra, a bold choice given the wind and her classic early-2000s spaghetti straps. She’s the hard femme hero we need and deserve.
Now you might be saying, “Tess, a lesbian?” because I imagine you clicked into this to ask exactly that question for every character I mention here, but YES. Tess is immediately jealous of Becky, a straight up babe and title holder of Gungellan’s Baddest Influence. Being jealous of a girl who thinks it’s a great gag to flash her tits at all the male farm workers is an extremely lesbian move, Tess, because the jealousy is actually about attraction every time and I won’t hear a word against it.
Becky is maybe, I’ll admit, a little more bisexual than the others, but I still believe in my heart of hearts that after they left the show she and Jodi eventually found each other again because they realised they were in love and now they live happily ever after wherever it is in Australia that lesbians congregate and grow artisanal vegetables. Becky doesn’t care what people think about her and she kisses men so they’ll buy her drinks and it takes a lot of confidence to do that. Gay confidence? You read the title of this article so you better believe I think it’s gay confidence.
Jodi is a late teen in the first season of McLeod’s, and easily influenced – when Becky turns up to help the shearers in a crop top and a denim skirt (why denim? Why a skirt? Because in 2001, we must), it doesn’t take long before Jodi is changing her clothes to something just as inappropriate for the situation. When Becky cuts her hair, Jodi immediately says “wow” and her mum Meg can see in her eyes that she’s already considering doing the same thing to her own hair and MAYBE MORE. I’m no expert, but I’m ready to believe that if she can so easily consider cutting off her hair it wouldn’t be that hard to also change her sexuality.
Speaking of Meg Fountain, as I always want to be, she’s the resident Mom Friend of Drover’s Run and she just wants to provide delicious food and tomato chutney for her gay family.
But by far the most textbook, the most classic eau de lesbiàn, wants to go to bonetown with a gal pal, gay-ass homosexual is… our favourite flannel-wearing, no-nonsense, almost always angry about something McLeod, Claire. Everything about her screams GAY CULTURE. What’s gayer than being mad all the time?
I’ll be honest with you – I feel a little weird going so ape on saying that Lisa Chappell is playing someone she thinks is gay but no one else on the show does but THAT’S WHAT IT FEELS LIKE.
Heteronormativity is a trip. Claire is like if you took the gayest person you could find and asked her to pretend to be straight, and everyone else also pretended she was straight and then in season three you ended up with a WHOLE BABY because of it. Like Lisa Chappell, call me. We can talk about this. Also, a lot of other things, please go on a date with me.
I mean, I know the synopses for this show like to mention the term ‘odd couple’ but I really don’t think they know how appropriate it is. Just two gay sisters watching some soft core porn before going online to cyber. Don’t believe me? It happened:
I don’t even know where to begin with the names of these chatrooms or with Claire having called herself ‘Farmgirl’, but I do appreciate that Tess gave her like a full crash course on how to use the internet for sex earlier in the episode. I’m not sure it helped – she almost immediately uses the words ‘big boy’ and ‘slow down’, classic heterosexual moves, and then manages to disconnect the internet accidentally.
She does not return to it.
On the male end of the gay spectrum, Alex Ryan goes to the rodeo and is ostensibly “showing Tess around” but the absolute king of the Unnecessarily Popped Collar spends at least ten minutes checking out all the (male) bronco riders with a sweet little smile on his dumb face.
I know he and Claire have some sort of ‘romance’ ‘plotline’ develop in season three, but they have the chemistry of two dudebro brothers obsessed with outdoing each other and I don’t buy them as a couple for one second. I reckon all Alex really wants in his life is a gentle and well-dressed rural boy who is good with his hands and wants to snuggle up on the couch at night. Outwardly butch, inwardly soft as hell. Maybe someone like… Dave the vet???
Interestingly enough, the one canonical gay character on this show turns up in the second episode to solve a sheep-shearing crisis – I know, I know – and in a bizarre B plot, everyone thinks he’s a murderer but really he’s just hiding the fact that he’s gay and that’s why his wife left him. He would rather people believe he is a murderer than a regular boring gay person. A murderer.
There’s a guy just living his whole sheep shearing life with everyone certain he threw his wife and kids in a river because all these rural Aussies have the internet-intelligence level of Claire McLeod, and he’s just fine with it. Like, is he ever going to get a boyfriend? Is his boyfriend going to be into murder? Is he going to have to go on the East West Bisexual Network under a fake name to find true love???
I’m so concerned about what was going through the writers’ heads for this storyline. I mean, I get the ‘macho farm boys don’t like gays’ part even if it makes me feel uncomfortable and sad; I just wish there was a way that they could have handled it without the ‘we’re gonna pretend he killed his family’ part.
Anyway, don’t ever let anyone tell you we haven’t come a long way on TV. I know you all hate me for egregiously slapping gay labels on everyone in sight and ruining this show for you, but man. At least I can do that now without couching it as an article about a bunch of murderers.
Even without murdering homosexuals McLeod’s Daughters had its sticky moments, and at its end it had devolved completely into the thing it had detested at its beginning – a soap opera with no real defining features. After eight seasons it ended on a low note, only two of the original cast members (who had left and then come back) there to see it out.
political & climate reportersFind Out More
When I recently started rewatching the show I assumed that plenty of its attitudes and plotlines had aged badly. But while some of the acting and dialogue is hokey and the clothing choices are ATROCIOUS (if anyone ever brings early 2000s clothing back into fashion I will come for them), this is a series made by women largely for women and there’s honestly not a lot of shows that have been made since that compare to it.
That’s not to say there aren’t several shows now that are specifically For The Ladies – some are even gay! But I do lament that we’ve never had a reboot of McLeod’s or at least a reunion-type miniseries that I could pretend I don’t want to watch but I end up finishing every episode like a damn gateau.
Where everyone is gay whether you like it or not.
This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.
Join The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us hire more journalists and do more investigations. Or get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel when you contribute $80 or more over a year.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.