Berena and Where It All Went Wrong (or in which my salty gay ass has zero fucks left to give)
- What she says: I'm fine
- What she means: The writers are still probably patting themselves on the back for good representation, but for many of the queer fanbase Berena has ceased to be good representation. The fact that they had to write an exit storyline for a queer character, but employed a shoddy, cheap, rushed, poorly executed (but NOT poorly acted) and lazy storyline underlines many problems with wlw representation. After a carefully-crafted, slow-burn, real to life queer romance exploring late-in-life discovery of sexuality, the writers quickly dashed the happiness of the queer couple. Too often after queer characters consummate/ find a healthy, loving relationship, they are plunged into tragedy. Often this can be narratively seem as a form of punishment for the queer characters' happiness, something exemplified in the show when very shortly after coming to terms with their queerness and relationship, the queer character suffers one of the worst tragedies: losing a child. Since the daughter's mockery/ lack of acceptance of her mother's queerness shortly occurred before the ultimately fatal car crash, narratively the two events are linked and this tension between mother and daughter is left unresolved. It connects the daughter's homophobia and the tragedy/ punishment, caused by her death, that the queer characters endure. (There is also sense that the daughter blames her mother, not telling her things, not keeping in contact, her 'bizarre sapphic mid-life crisis' for contributing to her drug use.)
- Furthermore, the loss is firmly established in the show as one that will forever alter the queer mother/ one she will never truly recover from. Despite there being a myriad of storylines, dramatic, highly emotional and with loads of potential to develop the mother/daughter relationship, such as the daughter undergoing rehab and also accepting her mother's sexuality, this was not chosen.
- Instead, the show decided to pull a twist of the 'lesbian death trope', by emotionally killing the queer character, plunging her into depression, destroying her personality and replacing it with anger. The show is also exploring the grief in a way it needn't have (often very incoherently as well). It is pathologising the female character's grief and turning her into a bully, (which looks to be leading her to a suicide attempt). This loss has unalterably changed her character, and it is important to understand that queer fans won't object to carefully written 'sad' storylines that develop queer characters, it is not just the tragedy but the level of tragedy and irreversible trauma of the tragedy the writers have chosen we object to. These characters haven't just had their happiness snatched away from them momentarily, but for a great deal of time. This tragedy and its trauma will haunt them all their lives.
- As for the queer relationship, the writers seem not to not how to write it now it is established (particularly as a sexual relationship). The tragedy has helpfully allowed the writers to remove the sexual element (and considerably lessen the romantic element, physical intimacy etc. whereas this has also been very established in heterosexual relationships on the show.) from the relationship. This reflects the inability of writers (and society) to maintain queer female relationships, because they exist outside the male gaze. (The unconscious societal fears surrounding wlw couples often contribute to this, such as, in other cases, the fear of non-reproductivity.) Of course, though, both characters are middle-aged, and so this desexualisation can also be argued as a form of misogyny.
- To conclude, Berena is NOT good representation. This tragedy will have irreversible, extreme effects on the happiness and mental wellbeing of the queer characters, and is the next storyline down from killing one of them. Therefore, by perpetuating elements of the 'dead lesbian trope', the show reinforces the tired and harmful narrative that queer characters do not deserve or attain happiness or even just stability and content in their lives. This idea is particularly damaging to the substantial young queer fanbase the show attained, as the storyline once gave them hope and courage to accept their sexuality by showing it in a positive light, but now it is doing the opposite and telling viewers that they shouldn't be happy or comfortable with who they are. The 'dead lesbian trope' in media is often a way for writers to punish characters that deviate and defy social norms, thus restoring the 'conventional order of heteronormative society' and highlighting how there is no place for happy, healthy queer characters in the world. Since media is both a reflection of and template for real life, if happy, healthy queer characters cannot exist in a narrative it follows that queer people are told they cannot exist in the world, happy and healthy. And this is a very troubling idea, and one the show, unfortunately, is reinforcing. That the writers don't seem to be recognising that they are doing this is even more troubling.