Death, Lesbians, Virtual Reality, and Hope

I’m actually not happy about writing this, but not why you’re thinking.

On the Netflix show Black Mirror, they aired an episode that was about coming out, falling in love, and death. The episode “San Junipero” is an amazingly deep and complex telling of a future where the consciousness of the dead can be uploaded to a computer and spend their time as their younger selves.

In the computer world, Kelly and Yorkie meet, hook up, and fall in love. The problem is that in the real world, Yorkie has been in a coma for 40 years and her deeply religious parents won’t let her die. Her plan is to marry her nurse and he will euthanize her, allowing her to spend her afterlife in San Junipero.

By contrast, Yorkie is a widow who lost her husband after their son died. She has no plans to stay in San Junipero, even though she too is aged and dying. After meeting Kelly in the real world, they marry and she allows Kelly to die. Not long after, when her own death is approaching, she decides to join Yorkie and they spend eternity together.

It’s incredibly complicated, and it’s problematic. The parallels to heaven and the concept of just because there’s an afterlife, it’s all okay, cannot be avoided. At the end, we still have two more dead lesbians in 2016 (the current total is 32 by the way, thanks to this show and Masters of Sex). No matter that there’s no erasure of homosexuality, and no matter that it’s a big ol’ middle finger to the religious right, it’s still two dead lesbians.

And damn it, it was a good episode!

But I can’t be happy or even approve, because the wonderful story of love transcending space and time and even death included death. Which means part of the message is that lesbians can only have true happiness in death. You see how it’s a problem? It’s probably not the intended message, but that’s where the story went. It went to a dark place that death is the only refuge.

As much as I’d love to sit and cling to the last, hopeful moment of Kelly and Yorkie dancing, I’m left with a feeling of unease. That only in death will the truth of love be known. That the inevitability of death is where happiness lies. That I must accept that life is to be suffered through.

It’s impossible for me to watch the episode and chose to feel only hope. After the horror that 2016 has been, from record deaths and betrayals of queer women, to problematic representation, queerbaiting, abuse, and then our lovely US political climate, to have another death like this itches and burns. It’s a moment that should have been happy, but it was and will be tainted by the world that surrounds its airing.

While we all know the horse will throw a shoe, the prince will leave the princess, and the happy-ever-after is a myth, having death be that final moment rankles. Within the context of the show, and the episode, however, there was no other ending that would have been as close to happiness.

I can accept that, and still find the entire situation uncomfortable and unhappy. Because 32 women who loved women died in 2016, and two happened here.

About Mika Epstein

Mika has been deep in the fandom world since she could say 'Trekkie.' With over two decades experience in running fansites and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.
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