A Love Letter To ‘Matilda’s’ Miss Honey, The Woman Who Sparked A Generation’s Sexual Awakening
No character holds power like Miss Honey and her round-frame glasses do.
You’d be hard pressed to find a millennial who doesn’t have a strong connection to the 1996 classic, Matilda.
If you ask any 20-something what they remember about the film, Matilda Wormwood controlling the cupboards and lights in her house with her powers instantly comes to mind. That, or Matilda gluing her dad’s hat to his evil head, or the image of the tiny bookworm dragging a trolley full of books from the library all on her own.
Some would share their now irrational fear of all headmasters thanks to Miss Trunchbull and the Chokey, while others will remember watching Bruce Bogtrotter scoff down a whole chocolate cake in front of the school. Hell, I’m certain some women even went through a period of refusing to wear pigtails because of what happened to poor, innocent Amanda Thripp.
What I’m trying to say is: Matilda was an impactful film, a cultural reset if you will. But beyond being a movie a lot of us grew up with, no one really speaks about the most important part of Matilda: Miss Honey, and how she sparked an entire generation’s sexual awakening.
Yes, Miss Jennifer Honey played by Embeth Davidtz. Staff at Crunchem Hall, teacher to Matilda and step-neice to Miss Trunchbull. Treated like absolute garbage by her aunt, yet still the sweetest person in cinematic history and the woman we all fell in love with as children.
IF U WERE SLIGHTLY WAY TOO OBSESSED WITH MISS HONEY U WERE EITHER GAY OR HAD MAJOR MOMMY ISSUES ION MAKE THE RULES pic.twitter.com/sQOySDGYis
— christian 🇵🇸 (@shesgottabf) September 22, 2020
Miss Honey Was Everything We Wanted To Have And To Be
Think about how many shitty, mean teachers you had in your life and how every time you wished they could be like Miss Honey: patient, soft-spoken, loving, kind and willing to adopt you given the chance.
Honestly, no matter who you are, you definitely thought Miss Honey was perfection in human form. And for most people, watching the sweet teacher in Matilda left you with one of only three feelings: Wanting to have her in your life, wanting to be her in the future, or wanting her as your girlfriend.
And, I mean how could you not? For those who struggled to connect with their own mothers growing up, she was the warm hug we all yearned for. For those old enough to understand the impact that Miss Honey had on her students, she became the ideal to strive towards if you wanted to pursue a job in education or be a parent. But for most, Miss Honey was every millennial’s first real crush.
did you have a crush on miss honey growing up or are you normal? pic.twitter.com/a3Sr9O17HF
— carol 🎄 (@ohmissmills) July 25, 2020
As a fictional character, Miss Honey simply had no faults so it was hard to not fall in love with her.
Beyond being beautiful, kind and wearing glasses in a way that no one had ever before her, Jennifer Honey was selfless and independent. She literally adopted Matilda on a teacher salary in America around the ’90s, which would’ve only been around a measly $30,000. Plus, she did that on her own, proving you do not need a man for anything in life — especially to have happiness and love.
Like Matilda, all Miss Honey really wanted a loving family and she didn’t wait for a man to make this dream a reality. Throughout Matilda, Miss Honey stayed a “Miss” and still got her happily ever after all on her own, with no man and no family support.
“and matilda found, to her surprise, that life could be fun. she decided to have as much fun as possible. after all, she was a very smart kid. matilda and miss honey each got what they wanted: a loving family.” – matilda (1996). pic.twitter.com/wqq0lMtPxW
— sylvia. (@songofjon) August 24, 2020
An Unexpected Lesbian Icon
As a result of not having a man, the theory that Miss Honey is actually a lesbian has been swirling around for years.
Perhaps it’s because of her little cottage in the woods or maybe it’s the fact that she’s just very clearly far too smart for men, but with the emergence of the cottagecore aesthetic, people have crowned Miss Jennifer Honey the original cottagecore lesbian. A true cottagecore trendsetter before the trend even existed.
thinking about that scene in matilda when miss honey pours tea for matilda in her little house that had a garden and a flowerbed like the absolute cottagecore lesbian that she is
— alma (@Iesbwian) August 26, 2019
I love how we as a generation all grew up with the unspoken understanding that Miss Honey was a classic cottagecore lesbian, based on absolutely no evidence except the fact that she preferred living alone and was clearly too smart to like men. pic.twitter.com/NbX5pniSpw
— Sarah McGonagall (@gothspiderbitch) August 16, 2020
But beyond theories about whether Miss Honey is a lesbian herself, there’s no denying the impact that the character had on the LGBTIQ youth who watched Matilda growing up.
Mara Wilson, the actress who played Matilda, herself explained that this collective love for Miss Honey is so strong because children’s films rarely every showed “strong, resilient female characters overcome adversity”, and especially those who would create their “own family and own happiness through hard work and friendship”.
Wilson also stated that the gravitation of lesbians, in particular, towards Matilda can simply be explained by so many women having crushes on Miss Jennifer Honey.
It was one of the few children’s films to show a strong, resilient female character overcome adversity and a family that did not understand her to create her own family and her own happiness through hard work and friendship.
Also, they all have crushes on Miss Honey. https://t.co/E69yR3pfmG
— Mara “Get Rid of the Nazis” Wilson (@MaraWilson) June 27, 2018
To understand why all lesbians are seemingly attracted to Miss Honey, I spoke to comedy writer and online lesbian Bec Shaw to find out what the allure of the character actually is.
“Partly I think it’s that Matilda is a movie about being different to other kids, and trying to find your place in the world,” Shaw told Junkee. “Miss Honey appears in that movie as someone who is gentle and kind to the kid who needs it. I feel like that’s something that a lot of young queer kids back then were really looking for.”
“She’s also basically an early prototype of a cottagecore lesbian. And most importantly, she is unmarried. She’s staunchly a ‘Miss’, she lives by herself, she doesn’t express desire to be married,” Shaw continued.
“When you’re desperately trying to find queerness and queer representation, you were often relying on the absence of heterosexuality rather than the explicit presence of queerness.”
In this sense, it makes sense why Miss Honey was so loved by all. Beyond proving that female characters, and women in general, don’t need to be married to a man to find success, happiness and love, Miss Honey was welcoming of all — including those who were seen as “different” to the rest of the kids.
Sharing this important video on bisexual day pic.twitter.com/znalKkkAit
— Bec Shaw (@Brocklesnitch) September 23, 2020
The Character Who Transcends Generations
While I don’t personally identify as lesbian or bi, I, like many other children who grew up in the ’90s, have a similar attraction to Miss Honey.
And now, 24 years after Matilda was released, this strange collective obsession millennials seem to have with the character has somehow transferred onto a new generation. As a timeless classic, Gen Z have too fallen in love with Miss Honey, so much so that stanning the fictional character has even become its own trend on TikTok.
Between people cosplaying what it would be like to be Miss Honey’s wife to sharing that Embeth Davidtz was the crush they had before they “knew”, Miss Honey continues to the unite generations for one reason and one reason alone: Pure horniness.
But at the end of the day, whether it’s unaddressed mommy issues or just having the hots for Miss Honey, let’s all just remember that glasses scene that truly did awake something in all of us and will do the same for generations to come:
Michelle Rennex is senior writer at Junkee. She tweets at @michellerennex.