Renata Is a Chaotic Top: “Big Little Lies” Characters as Gay Archetypes

Does Madeline give off neutral bottom energy? Is Mary Louise more of a lawful vers? Who's who among the Monterey Five?

The second-season finale of Big Little Lies may have left us with more questions than when we started the damn thing: Did the Monterey Five turn themselves in? What will happen to Mary Louise? So we’re just not going to talk about that whole witch story line? Will there be a Season 3? Do we need a Season 3? Did we need a Season 2?

But if there’s anything we’re more certain of now than ever, it’s our love for Celeste, Madeline, Bonnie, Jane, and Renata. Though their friendship might be based on a dirty secret—or as Celeste observed, “The lie is the friendship”—we can still find some truths about ourselves in them.

To wit, you may have seen this making the rounds on your text chains and social media feeds a little while back.

Using the Dungeons & Dragons alignment system categorizing characters based on their morals and ethics, the internet does what the internet tends to do and made it about gay sex. And a meme was born.

Upon closer observation, though, it becomes clear that for every gay archetype, there is a BLL character with the corresponding personality. Which, considering the show’s overt queer appeal—one word: MERYL—makes all the sense in the world (unlike large swathes of this season). Anygay, let’s get into who’s what.

Renata – Chaotic Top

Relevant traits: Has nutted while singing along to “Africa,” smacks your ass in public, definitely into choking
This is pretty obvious. If anyone’s got Big Dick Energy, it’s Renata “Woman in Fucking Power” Klein (Laura Dern). Don’t act like you can’t imagine Renata belting out Toto’s “Africa” while climaxing—her love of AM gold classics is well known.

As for the choking thing, with Gordon for a husband, can you blame her?


Corey – Lawful Top

Relevant traits: “Do you like that, babe?,” plays recced Spotify playlists during sex, doesn’t correct people who think they bottom
Turns out Corey (Douglas Smith) was actually a nice guy. Who knew they still made those? He was vey respectful of Jane, gave her space—though he did have some “lawful top” stalker vibes—and seems confident enough in himself (a rarity for a man on BLL) that he wouldn’t mind being mistaken for a bottom. How much Elliott Smith do you think is on that sex playlist, though?

Madeline – Neutral Top

Relevant traits: Proper punctuation, “Actually, I’m a top,” exclusively plays gay bops during, one or two weird kinks
Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) is 100 percent the top in her marriage to Ed, though she got knocked down a few pegs this season once Ed decided to show some self-respect after he found out about her affair. Type A Madeline would be the group’s stickler for punctuation, and we’re sure she totally has a Carly Rae bop at the ready for any and all situations.

Far from being completely vanilla, you know Madeline’s got a dark, kinky side—maybe that’s why Mary Louise never trusted her.

Jane – Lawful Vers

Relevant traits: Autocapitalization is on, has Spotify Premium so ads never interrupt, willing to try anything once
Jane (Shailene Woodley) loves her some music and is not trying to be out here fucking with ads on her Spotify running playlist. As a victim of sexual assault, she’s understandably cautious, but her willingness to give Corey a shot shows that she’s still got some moxie.

Dr. Reisman – Neutral Vers

Relevant traits: Genuinely has no preference, pretty vanilla tbh, loud during tho
The calm center of it all, Dr. Amanda Reisman (Robin Weigert) is as vanilla and as evenhanded as they come. It would be jarring, however, to hear her speak in anything other than a dulcet tone that drips with just a hint of condescension.

Celeste and Mary Louise – Chaotic Vers

Relevant traits: Alternates between pillow princess and dom top, slaps their own ass
Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) bumped heads, among other things, all season, and it’s largely because they are more alike than either would care to admit.

By this point, Celeste’s sexual track record has been well established…

But her resemblance to Mary Louise has more to do with temperament than proclivities. They’re basically two sides of the same fiery, kinda scary coin, equally capable of being pillow princesses—Celeste’s outward composure, Mary Louise’s disarming cordiality—and dom tops. The fact is, the fight between Mary Louise and Celeste gets so ugly and so personal because they’re two dom tops who refuse to come out on the bottom.

Ed – Lawful Bottom

Relevant traits: Just excited to be here, practices sex sounds in private, is embarrassed to sext
Ed (Adam Scott) really is just excited to be here, and if he’s not embarrassed to sext, we’d be embarrassed for him.

Bonnie – Neutral Bottom

Relevant traits: Secretly into choking, never horny on main, thinks people can’t tell they bottom, wants to cuddle after
Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz), the coolest cucumber in the crisper, is not one for PDA—at least not with her husband, whom she admitted she never loved in the show’s finale. As a yogi, however, she’s got a deep mind-body connection and is down for some cuddles afterwards. It’s all about getting those heart chakras dutifully aligned.

Nathan and Gordon – Chaotic Bottom

Relevant traits: A brat, has sexted at the dinner table.
Nathan (James Tupper) and Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) are two men-children and the biggest brats on the entire show—and that’s including the actual children.

We also wouldn’t put it past Gordon to sext the nanny while at the dinner table. No court in the land would convict Renata for taking a bat to his things.

Or his ribs.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat