Lessons in better representation
The Holby production team will be discussing the campaign – click here to read the BBC CEO Tim Davie’s response to our open letter
Berena deserved better, just like so many f/f screen couples before them. Even after everything – the praise; the promises from Holby City; the assurances that they got it; the award – we must add this one to the pile of love stories between women that have crashed and burned in the midst of tired tropes and negative stereotypes. We’re hurt, we’re angry, and we can think of a million different ways the story could have gone, even a million different endings, but on this site is where we’re channelling our feelings into pressing for action. Evidently, if we want change, we will have to agitate for it.
Since the 11 December episode aired, the BBC has failed to respond to criticisms of the way that they ended Berena and of how they baited fans on social media in the build-up. The Holby City Twitter account has acknowledged and engaged with positive tweets but resolutely ignored the hundreds telling them that they got things wrong, causing a great deal of upset along the way. Yet, in response to a formally submitted complaint, the BBC said: “we have no evidence to suggest that it has caused ‘widespread distress’ among audience members.”
One of our first goals is to engage with the BBC in the hope that they will, at least, acknowledge the harm done. Some of us have written blog posts and created art about what Holby City got wrong, and the impact it has had on us – and we invite you to join in. We will complain and keep complaining – and you will find resources on this site to do so, too.
We would like this to be the beginning of a conversation with them, and other programme makers, that helps us to avoid this kind of situation occurring again. We seek representation that challenges, rather than reinforcing stereotypes, from programme makers who are prepared to be accountable for their creations.
We hope that this site, and the conversations shared using #BerenaDeservedBetter will be a source of analysis and comment on f/f stories and, where necessary, it will be a place for collective organising. We welcome opportunities to consult with creative allies who wish to do LGBTQ audiences justice.
#BerenaDeservedBetter is a forum for people to voice their opinions about the representation of lesbian and bisexual women in popular culture and to take action to make storytellers and producers more accountable. We set up this space spurred by the depiction of the couple popularly known as Berena in the UK TV drama Holby City, which is produced by the BBC, played by Jemma Redgrave (Bernie Wolfe) and Catherine Russell (Serena Campbell).
We are a group of people from across countries and timezones, across occupations and cultures and ages, gay and straight. Berena brought us together and touched our lives in different ways. We were promised a respectful representation but, in the end, we were given a mish-mash of the worst stereotypes about lesbians and bisexuals, and about women, not to mention about older women. It was wrong, and we decided we wouldn’t be silent any more.