(Guest post by Paula)
What first attracted me to Berena was the depiction of them as educated, professional, and mature women. They oozed agency. In acknowledging their love for each other, they sidestepped the ‘coming out angst’ and simply embraced each other and their relationship. In June, they had arrived at a point wherein Serena could not imagine a life without an ‘us’ and Bernie pledged to wait until ‘eternity’ for them to be together permanently.
In conjunction with ‘gay baiting’ and the blatant use of demeaning lesbian stereotypes, HC managed to conjure every stereotype which is demeaning to women in general.
Previous to the late fall, Bernie and Serena were paradigms of the modern woman. The Holby writers even touched upon the conundrum of guilt which all working mothers experience. Is not the abyss of grief which Serena suffers over Elinor’s death partially driven by her false assumption, if she had been more present, that Eleanor may have made different choices? In the same way, does not Bernie experience guilt over her necessary separation from her children? These are issues which clutter the lives of modern women and it is appropriate that HC explore them. After all, Bernie and Serena are contemporary women and accept responsibility for their decisions
It is the destruction of this model of the modern women which angers me. HC stripped Serena of her agency and left her at the mercy of emotion and circumstance. She is left living the baseless assumptions about women which have always been detrimental and demeaning.
Why was Serena, the consummate professional, portrayed as shagging a junior doctor, a doctor she was charged with mentoring? This is a serious violation of protocol and is utterly counter to her canon character. If Henrick Hanssen had shagged Leah in an on-call room, the ‘Me Too’ movement would have justifiably demanded his suspension if not his dismissal.
It demeans women when they are not called to the same standards as their male counterparts. Is Serena given a pass because she is a woman, and women get all stressed and confused when they have to plan a social event such as a wedding? Are women so emotionally immature that their commitments cannot withstand three weeks of silence? Would Henrick have shagged Leah because his texts had not been answered? I suggest that his male character would have done something much more proactive. Oh, and what would the viewership have said if Leah had given him a silk jockstrap as a going away gift?
Another issue which is problematic for me is Jason’s role in Serena’s utterly misguided decision to send Bernie away. Yes, Jason is likeable, charming, lovable and loving. However, it is his musings about what Bernie wants or needs which compel Serena to end the relationship and to dismiss Bernie. Serena, more than anyone, knows exactly what Jason’s issues are, i.e., it is extremely difficult for him to understand the nuance and complexity of human emotions. It is a bizarre plot device for the writers to raise Jason to the role of the HC Oracle, and it is utterly unbelievable that Serena would accept his suggestions without any thought as to his context. How is it acceptable that Jason has more perception than the supposedly mature Serena? It is not!
Clearly the destruction of Berena has unnecessarily caused measurable harm to the lesbian community. They have been used and abused, and still there is no acknowledgment of this. My point is that all thinking women should be angered. Anyone who cares about diverse and fair representation has a dog in this fight. Tropes and stereotypes are falsehoods, and they should never be used as a quick fix.
The fact that the BBC and its subsidiaries seemed to have ignored their own guidelines is insulting to anyone who pays the TV tax. Those of us who stream abroad do not get it for free, and I am sure that the BBC gets its share of our payment. The BBC needs at least to acknowledge BDB and offer a dialogue so that this situation is never repeated. The saddest thing of all is that none of this was necessary.