I am writing this because Bernie Wolfe is dead. Or at least the powers-that-be at Holby City want us to believe that she might be. So, this is not about promiscuous bisexuals, or about dead lesbians (well, it is, but not in that way), or the fact that Bernie is dying to further a white man’s story; it isn’t even about Holby City’s malicious attempt to get back at the hundreds of women, mostly LGBT, who dared to criticise and protest about their creative scarcity. This is a short and sweet farewell to Bernie. Before whatever ill-advised story they have planned becomes canon, I want to say my goodbyes, on my own terms.
As a child, teen, and also much younger adult, I spent a lot of emotions on fictional characters. I imagined them as friends, as companions co-existing with me in my space. I imagined myself in their realities as well (exploring new life and new civilisations with Spock was such fun). I suppose a shrink would interpret that as me compensating for the real-life relationships I couldn’t have. All I know is that those people, even if they did not exist, were my escape when I couldn’t face the world; they kept me grounded (stop rolling your eyes) and happy; and most of all, they made me self-sufficient in terms of taking care of my mental health when I was too young to know what that was.
Bernie Wolfe was the first such character I had felt so strongly about in adulthood. I was in my 40s when I discovered Berena, Bernie, and Jemma Redgrave, and the reason I mention all three of them is that they all played a role. First of all, Berena was once a groundbreaking lesbian story, not only because it was about two older, professional women who were being shown as desirable and desired, but it seemed to be a well-told story in and of itself. Second, the character of Bernie was fantastic, a battle-hardened frontline trauma surgeon, who decided to give herself and love another chance at the age of 51. And Jemma Redgrave played an absolute blinder with Bernie. She brought the character to life, made her someone I (and I’m sure this is true for many others) both wanted and wanted to be. Taken all together, Bernie was a symbol of a future that I felt could be mine (minus the hair and the skinny jeans). Sure, it was a story of a white woman in an alien culture, but it was also a lot more than that.
Now we know that the brilliance of the story was an accident. The crackling onscreen chemistry was thanks to the actors, and its worldwide popularity happened because LBT viewers desperate for representation are very good at looking in obscure corners. But for a while, about a year and a half (because I discovered it much after it started), Bernie Wolfe brought me incredible joy.
So, thank you for the music, Bernie.