Testimony: Betrayal

Theatre masks

(Guest post by RPC)

There was something. Once. Something breathtakingly beautiful.

Two brilliant, beautiful, scarred, strong women were thrown together by the fates. There was no other reason that Serena Campbell and Bernie Wolfe would find each other. For a short period of time, the heavens smiled down upon them. And, us.

There is no logical reason why I would have become so attached to this fictional couple. I suppose the thought of love isn’t logical. But I did become attached and I am grieving their loss.

Before I continue, a few disclosures. I am lesbian. I’ve known that since I was five years old. Never denied it. I don’t need television shows, movies, or books to accept my sexual preference. I am a confident, well-educated, middle-aged, successful professional. The last thing that I ever thought that I would be doing is writing a comment about a lesbian couple on a British TV show. But here I am doing just that. And I thought about why. It became very clear. It’s because words matter and Holby, and by Holby I mean the producers, creative staff, and writers, failed to live up to their words.

I started watching Holby because the scene between Bernie and Alex popped up on my YouTube feed. Being a Doctor Who fan, I immediately recognized Bernie as Kate Stewart. And the coupling of Bernie and Alex was very pleasing to the eye, so I watched. Not knowing anything about Holby, I thought “OK. Another lesbian relationship where the ‘soulmates’ love each other so intensely but can’t stay together.”

That is, as someone far more eloquent than I will ever be, called the “Lesbian blueprint for love: tortured and at a distance” (IllusionsSister).

Of course, one of the women returned to her husband. Nothing new with that. That is the diet that lesbians are fed with on television dramas. It is one of the tropes that lesbians have grown accustomed to: you have to give up the “love of your life” to prove your love.

Then it happened. An unseen, intense energy guided Bernie toward Serena. It was as if Bernie really didn’t have a choice, the energy pulled her to Serena. Then, Serena turned to Bernie in the parking lot, flashing that warm, provocative smile. And the spark ignited. The undeniable sexual chemistry exploded on my screen. I was hooked for no other reason than I admire beauty. And Bernie and Serena (or should I say the actors that portray them) are beautiful, individually and together.

As I watched the show, I certainly didn’t have any expectations that Bernie and Serena would last because it is formulaic medical drama. Seen one, you’ve basically seen them all. Then, the Holby producers and writers started talking about “Berena.” We were told by Holby powers-that-be that representation matters; that it represented a friend’s middle-age awakening; that it was a story that they wanted to tell; that the bunting was unfurled and shouting of “hurrah”; that the show was invested in Berena; that this coupling wouldn’t be portrayed as other lesbian couples have been portrayed. And contrary to my usual “prove it” approach to life, I fell for it: hook, line and sinker. I took the bait and swallowed it. I think a lot of us did. I believed.

Their courtship was nothing short of magical. Bernie finally became “brave enough.” Serena shed her protective exterior recognizing the symptoms of “falling in love.” Certainly, they had their struggles: Serena’s daughter’s death; her meltdown thereafter; the distance when Serena returned to Holby. But through it all, I believed. I believed that the producers of Holby were sensitive to the storyline and were on the road of doing something “groundbreaking.” I believed that they would be true to their words.

I became that high-school student knowing that I was “different” from the other girls and wanting to find someone just like me. I had finally found them in Serena Campbell and Bernie Wolfe. They were enchanting.

Their love reminded me of the Oscar Wilde quote:

You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing only a song you can hear.

Then the unthinkable happened. Serena cheated with someone she supervised. The episode that was coined a celebration of love was the very episode that Holby ended Serena and Bernie’s relationship.

I am not going to speak to the litany of negative representations and hurtful baiting that went on immediately prior to the end and continues today. I want my words today to reflect the sadness and melancholy that I have in my heart for having lost a place, in an ever-increasing hateful world, to which I turned to be part of love.

Contrary to the justification for the break up, it really wasn’t mature or complicated. The notion of “if you love someone set them free” is a romantic notion of an adolescent. Adults work on their relationships. Adult, mature relationships are hard.

Holby gave up on Bernie and Serena. I didn’t. But I no longer believe. Now, what was once something so breathtakingly beautiful is nothing. And I no longer have that “place of love” to turn to.

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