The Happy Ending Project Part 3: Clarina

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This week’s happy ending pairing comes from Brazil, from a telenovela called “Em Família” (the English version of the title is “Helena’s Shadow,” oddly enough), which aired in 2014. The couple consists of Clara Fernandes de Santos, played by Giovanna Antonelli, and Marina Meirelles, played by Tainá Müller. Together, their portmanteau is Clarina. If you read no further, know this: this is one of the best lesbian couples I’ve seen on screen, period. In almost two decades of watching everything lesbian I could get my hands on, this is among the best of the best.

Em_Família_on_Veja_Magazine

I began the Happy Endings Project because my favorite couple, my OTP (One True Pair), Pepa and Silvia from “Los Hombres de Paco” (the couple against which all others will be judged) did not have a happy ending, and because it has been exasperating to devote hours upon hours to watching other couples only to eventually discover that they didn’t get a happy ending either. I wanted to help other women find couples worth watching, couples that they could enjoy and not have their happiness ruined at the end.

I felt slightly ambivalent about Agusleria and Lutricia, the first two couples in this project, because of how one half of each of the couples behaved during the couple’s run, which cast a shadow over their happy endings. If one partner mistreats the other and causes her undue pain, can I root for them to end up together? Clarina, however, is exactly the type of couple I’d hoped for. Couples like Clara and Marina are the true goal of this project.

As foolish as it may sound, I wish the world, particularly the heterosexual world, could see Clarina through my eyes, because I see them not just as a fictional TV couple on a Brazilian soap opera, but also as one thread in the larger tapestry of LGBT representation, a tapestry full of unhappy endings, two-dimensional characters, and limited screen time.

Lesbian storylines have historically been given short shrift compared to heterosexual characters’ stories, and only a few kisses here and there to tide us over while straight characters engage in a flurry of physical intimacy. It’s true that Clarina don’t get many kisses, but they get something better: irresistible chemistry. Clarina sets a gold standard for creating electric attraction between two female characters. From the moment their eyes meet, the two are like two live wires around each other. There are many lesbian couples who have been on TV and in movies; there are few indeed quite like Clarina.

Clarina is many things. It is in some ways a soap opera heterosexual paradigm with a lesbian in the place of the man: exotic, rich photographer woos married, underutilized housewife, who can’t resist photographer’s charm. Clarina is much more than that, however.

For example, whether the writers did this consciously or unconsciously, the character of Marina is set up as the embodiment of a romantic ideal: someone who looks at you from across the room, realizes in an instant that you are her soulmate, and dedicates the rest of her life to supporting and loving you no matter what. Someone who (mostly) patiently, lovingly says, “I will wait for you, for as long as it takes.” Someone who will look at you with all the love and adoration in the world, with an unshakeable faith that you are meant to be together. Someone who is exotic, seductive, and playful.

“I dismiss you from my heart” is my new favorite phrase.

While Clarina is the story of both Marina and Clara, of the two Clara’s individual story is slightly more compelling. In contrast to Marina’s dedicated, certain love she must contend with the centrifugal force of the various loves in her life: genuine love and loyalty for her husband Cadu, equally irresistible, passionate love for Marina (mixed with a healthy dose of sexual confusion), and maternal love for her son Ivan. Clara doesn’t fall in love with Marina and then leave her husband because she realizes she loves Marina and not her husband, as happens in many lesbian storylines; she loves them both, and tells both of them that openly.

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