A few months ago, when the second season of Black Mirror was released on Netflix, I eagerly watched all six episodes and wrote about the first episode, fully intending to go through each one on this blog. Then a giant, moldy, xenophobic cheeto was elected president of this country and suddenly some of the episodes were getting too close to home, in particular the episode entitled “Men Against Fire” which literally made me cry.
Before I became a social worker, the subject matter of the movies and TV I was watching didn’t impact me as much, even as a member of two marginalized communities. But doing the work I do in this political climate means that most of what I watch is going to give me a break from all the crap that’s happening in real life and Black Mirror, as brilliant as it is, does not fit the bill of what I can stomach at the moment. So I took a break from thinking about Black Mirror and watched things like All Cheerleaders Must Die (which was breathtakingly disappointing; it started out so strong, with fully-formed queer characters and what looked to be dude bros getting their just desserts only to end with female characters being tortured and murdered while the trash men got to die instantly without any fanfare).
Even though I am not ready to dive into Men Against Fire yet (though I will because it’s truly the most brilliant take I’ve ever seen on how humans “other” people different from themselves) I decided to dip my toe back into one of my favorite episodes, San Junipero, which goes perfectly with the theme of queer representation I’ve been exploring the last couple blog posts.
San Junipero is the fourth episode in the season and the only one with a happy ending. The technology in this story brings people together rather than tearing them apart as it does in every other episode; people who are at the end of their lives have the ability to enter San Junipero, a virtual reality where one can relive the best parts of their youth. It’s here where Yorkie, a shy, reserved woman, meets the outgoing and vivacious Kelly. The two become close and eventually fall into a romance.
I loved the fact that the episode neither fetishized Kelly and Yorkie’s relationship nor presents them as sexless, as is the fate of many onscreen queer people (and for the record, there is nothing wrong with being a-sexual or not being interested in sex; it’s when ALL queer characters are never allowed to have even an implied sex life because the straights are uncomfortable with queer relationships that include sex); Yorkie and Kelly have sex in a way that’s not played up for the male gaze yet there is no question that these two are getting down with each other. I almost stood up and cheered when Kelly confesses to Yorkie during pillow talk that she’s bisexual and had been married to a man. The best part? The show never ONCE implies that: 1. Kelly spending 49 years with her husband makes her less bisexual 2. Kelly sleeping with and developing romantic feelings towards Yorkie makes her less bisexual 3. Being bisexual means you are confused, a cheater, any other horrifying stereotype placed on bi people or 4. That Yorkie, as a lesbian, should have some kind of internal conflict about falling in love with a bisexual woman. Kelly is 10000% bi, it is a non-issue and I am 10000% HERE FOR IT.
Kelly later finds out that Yorkie is on life support after being in a car accident and is planning on living in San Junipero full time, an option some can choose to do after death, but needs a spouse to override her religious family’s objection to Yorkie pulling the plug on herself. Kelly proposes to Yorkie and Yorkie accepts; the two are married and then must decide whether or not Kelly will join Yorkie in the digital afterlife. At first Kelly is adamant that she will not live in San Junipero full time out of respect for her late husband and daughter (who died as an adult, leaving Kelly and her husband devastated). It really seems as though the two will never live out the rest of eternity in an 80’s dream together but Kelly eventually changes her mind and joins Yorkie in San Junipero where the two drive off together to the Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth and we are left with the most warm fuzzy feelings.