Sister Wendy Beckett, an art lover and surprise documentarian who became famous for her fresh, heartfelt, and often profound takes on both historical and modern art, died on Wednesday at the age of 88.
Sister Beckett first rose to fame in the mid-'80s when a BBC crew filming a documentary on Germaine Greer came across Beckett at an exhibit in Norfolk, England. Over the course of the next few decades, Beckett became a beloved art teacher and friend to professionals, amateurs, and elementary school students watching movies in art class alike. According to a 1997 profile in The New York Times, Beckett subsisted "mainly on a pint and a half of skim milk per day" and, despite garnering first national and later international attention, never had any issues keeping her vows of chastity, poverty, and hermitage. Any money she made in her film career was donated to the Church.
Beckett spent years teaching herself the finer points of art and its history from her windowless trailer on the Carmelite Monastery grounds in East Anglia, England, before the spotlight found her. She published her first book, Contemporary Women Artists, in 1988, and starred in her first stand-up documentary for the BBC in 1991. The next year, the BBC produced the six-part Sister Wendy's Odyssey, which focused on museums in England and Scotland and, according to the Times, drew 3.5 million viewers.
Given Sister Beckett’s status as the Art Nun, a sister with an extraordinary sense of humor, sharp wit, and a love for storytelling, we've decided to honor her memory with a list of fictional nuns we hope she’d enjoy. Here are nine nuns and sisters in genre who deserve your love (or, at the very least, your viewership).
The Sisters of Plenitude, Doctor Who
The Sisters of Plenitude, Catkind who ran a hospital on New Earth just outside New New York, caused a fair amount of trouble for the 10th Doctor and his companion Rose. Appearing in two Doctor Who episodes, the Sisters, according to the Doctor, have created cures to just about every sickness in the universe, treatments that shouldn't have been discovered for at least 1,000 years. They're geniuses. They’re also super shady.
The Doctor and Rose soon discovered that the Sisters had made these cures by injecting every known disease into thousands of human clones, euthanizing them when the clones became too sick to be useful anymore.
This dark episode, lightened by the ever-iconic Lady Cassandra ("moisturize me"), is a sort of one-off, though we later learn that Novice Hame was forced to be the Face of Boe's personal nurse as penance. Serves her right.
The sisters of St. Paul's, Titans
Imprisoning a half-demon teenager in the basement of your convent is a good way to get your convent destroyed. The sisters of St. Paul's learned that the hard way in Titans' third episode, "Origins," after they, yes, trapped Raven — er, Rachel — in the basement.
If you've stuck with Titans since Episode 3 (and you should have), you know that the nuns were in on the plot to bring Trigon, Rachel's creepy dad and a demon bent on destruction, to their reality. Look, we get that you’re brainwashed and stuff, but there’s gotta be better ways to unleash your demon master than by manipulating a frightened, confused girl. Kinda sounds like these nuns need more Jesus in their lives.
Sister Irene, The Nun
This year's Conjuring-verse movie was The Nun, which is equal parts period piece and horror movie. The demon Valak, who we've met in previous Conjuring films, has been unleashed on Saint Cartha's monastery in 1952 Romania, killing nuns and causing general pain and despair. Father Burke, a Catholic priest and exorcist, is sent by the Vatican with the young Sister Irene to investigate.
Sister Irene is, in the end, the hero of this story. Though Father Burke was sent to deal with Valak, Irene is the one to defeat the demon and restore some semblance of peace to the monastery by remaining steadfast in her faith and being generally clever. Plus, Irene is played by the ever-fantastic Taissa Farmiga, whose natural doe-eyed innocence was made for horror movies.
Ninja Nuns, Batman: Bad Blood
Dick Grayson loves a good pun. So it's no surprise that when he's forced to take up the Batman mantle in Batman: Bad Blood and fight an army of ninja nuns alongside Batwoman, he refers to them as "Nunjas."
These nuns, armed with M60 machine guns and katanas, work for The Heretic (a growth-accelerated clone of Damian Wayne) and Talia al Ghul. Dick Grayson-Batman and Batwoman take them all down within 30 seconds of meeting them, but they’re certainly still memorable.
Sister Bertrille, The Flying Nun
Only Americans would make three seasons of a sitcom about a flying nun. Seriously, that happened. Sally Field played the titular flying nun Sister Bertrille from 1967 to 1970, delighting audiences for a short period and spawning a short-lived series of novels. Field later revealed her dislike for the role and said it sent her into a deep depression, something she struggled with for years after the fact.
Sister Bertrille explains her ability at one point in the series — "When lift plus thrust is greater than load plus drag, anything can fly" — but her penchant toward flight was usually attributed to her weighing 90 pounds, the high winds at her convent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and her wing-like habit. Initially a hit, ratings steadily dropped over time. But Sister Bertrille still floats in our hearts.
Sister Maggie, Marvel's Daredevil
Marvel's Daredevil Season 3 introduced several new characters that would have been fun to explore in future seasons if the series hadn’t been canceled. Perhaps the most intriguing was Sister Maggie, formerly known as Maggie Murdock, aka Matt Murdock/Daredevil's biological mother.
Matt's had plenty of father figures to cling to throughout his life, but few mother figures, so watching him interact with Sister Maggie was a treat, even before it was revealed she was his mother. At the end of Season 3, Matt and Maggie agreed to work together in the future. Maybe we'll get a Sister Maggie standalone series on Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney+, for our troubles. It would be equally funny and heartfelt. We can hope.
Sister Shannon Masters, Warrior Nun Areala
This manga-style comic series has real-world roots. When the Catholic sisters of the Fraternity of Our Lady established a chapter in New York City's East Harlem, Sister Marie Chantel earned a black belt in Judo for both sport and in order to protect herself and her fellow sisters. Other sisters followed (including the Mother Superior) and The New York Times reported the story in 1994.
Comic book artist Ben Dunn picked up on the story and decided to create a superhero narrative in which the hero, Catholic nun Sister Shannon Masters, never leaves her faith behind and instead uses it to empower herself and others. Alongside a cast of fantastic supporting characters, the Warrior Nun Sister Shannon Masters battles Satanists and otherworldly evil entities, approaching religion in an equally fun and respectful manner.
A movie or television show is, reportedly, in the works at Netflix.
Sister Jude, American Horror Story: Asylum
There's a reason Sister Jude is listed as SYFY WIRE's No. 1 American Horror Story character of all time. Played by AHS matriarch Jessica Lange, Sister Jude is one of the series' most complicated characters; she's first introduced as a pious nun with a mean streak, only for audiences to learn that she possesses a childlike sense of innocence.
Sister Jude is later imprisoned in the very same mental hospital she helped run for years and driven mad by guilt and her lacking grasp on reality. Eventually, she's healed by half-alien children in a forest and lives out the remainder of her life in peace.
Fish nuns, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Technically, these characters from Star Wars: The Last Jedi are known as "Caretakers," as they're charged with the upkeep of one of the first Jedi temples on Ahch-To. But we're still gonna call them 'fish nuns.'
These lovely creatures, robed in angelic white, seem to have an understanding with Luke Skywalker. Rey is another story. And who can blame them? This random girl comes traipsing through their village, demanding that their neighbor help her win a war, only to shoot holes through their walls and smash their cart with a giant boulder.
Sure, they eat porgs, but we don't blame them for it. They probably taste like chicken.