Introducing Teriah on The Young and the Restless

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I have an ambivalent relationship with soap operas. On the one hand, they’re melodramatic and last forever; both characteristics that I love. On the other hand, it feels like 90% of characters on American soap operas have a twin and an evil doll—which is a hyperbolic way of saying they can have some really over the top storylines—and also, because soap operas are so long running, most of the time lesbian couples don’t get a happy ending (Marbecca from “Verbotene Liebe,” Jasanni from “Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten,” Sophie and any of her partners from “Coronation Street,” Bianca and any of her partners on “All My Children,” etc.). And if there’s one thing I demand from my fictional couples, it’s a happy ending, darn it!

This year, “The Young and the Restless,” which has dominated the US soap scene since the 80s, is finally getting its first lesbian storyline. Meet Mariah (Camryn Grimes, who also played character Cassie, Mariah’s twin sister, and Cassie’s ghost) and Tessa (Cait Fairbanks). The “Teriah” story started with Mariah becoming besties with her brother Noah’s girlfriend Tessa.

They exchanged loaded, lingering looks and a few touches, and eventually had a sleepover after which Mariah couldn’t get Tessa out of her head, an attraction that apparently was mutual. Except, Mariah was still with billionaire Devon (Tessa’s boss) and Tessa was still with Noah. Gasp! Eventually, Mariah made the first move and kissed Tessa the first week of August (it’s actually a really sweet kiss), but then freaked out and told Devon she loved him immediately after.

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Get it, girl.

What has happened since is…well, treading water, although Mariah has spent all of the time mooning over Tessa. Tessa and Mariah have a (platonic) storyline revolving around Tessa’s sister and a prostitution ring and Mariah’s relationship with Devon is slowly falling apart, but as to Teriah actually becoming A Thing, it could be some time away.

Soap operas are all about slow burn (*cough Marbecca cough*), so one could argue that Y&R is taking its time with this pairing in order to better weave Tessa, who was brought in with the intention of making her Mariah’s love interest, more robustly into the lives of characters other than Mariah. On the other hand, one could also note that the originator of the Teriah storyline, Sally Sussman, moved on and episodes written by her replacement, Brit Mal Young, who oversaw a lesbian couple on “EastEnders,” doesn’t start until October 25, at which time the Teriah story may be expected to resume.

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Exhibit A: Not Dating.

In the meantime:

The good:

  • Grimes is awesome. I love how Mariah spends half her time on screen staring longingly at Tessa, staring jealously at Tessa and Noah, or reliving her single kiss with Tessa. Nailed it. Moreover, Grimes is going to be the captain of this ship, hands down. She’s on Twitter championing Teriah even in the face of homophobia from parts of the Y&R fanbase. Someone send her a Teriah t-shirt and a Floridian manatee.
  • Tessa projects empathy and emotional support, and it’s clear what Mariah sees in her.

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Mariah internal monologue: OMG she’s touching me don’t move play it cool OMG.

Room for improvement:

  • A lesbian couple on a show will bring in tons of viewers who normally would not watch the show. What makes this internationally-mobilized fandom possible, however, is accessibility. Right now, CBS has completely clamped down on fans’ ability to share scenes of Teriah through sites like YouTube and Dailymotion, zealously going after accounts that try to post scenes. Teriah will really struggle to make a ripple in the queer world and get fans in the US much less internationally if that tight control isn’t relaxed. CBS has to figure out how to share the story or else it won’t take off, which would be a pity after all the work put into it.
  • Absent so far is Tessa’s point of view in all this. We clearly see Mariah’s feelings, but what about Tessa? Why is she so oblivious to Captain Obviously in Love? Hopefully the show can right some of the lopsidedness in the relationship going forward.

For readers unfamiliar with soap operas, Y&R is the last soap opera to have a major LGBT storyline. Like most soap operas, it has a very conservative fanbase, and in one poll, 78.5% of respondents selected, regarding Teriah’s potential, the option: “I hate the idea – let them work out their relationship issues with their men!” CBS is apparently committed to going through with Teriah despite vocal opposition from some viewers, however, and given how popular the couple Otalia (Olivia and Natalia) from the US soap opera “Guiding Light” was, there’s clearly fertile ground for Teriah among queer viewers. Speaking of Otalia, Crystal Chappell (@crystalchappell) is the OG and master of captaining lesbian soap ships, if Grimes is looking for an example of how to actively manage championing her role and engaging with the queer female community.

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I want to like this pairing, just as I want to like every depiction of same-sex pairings on screen, but if viewers who aren’t regular Y&R viewers are unable to find footage of Teriah in non-music video form, then the pairing will struggle to raise its profile in the queer female community. Even when writing this article and scouring the internet, I found no obvious and publicly available clips of the pairing, which means I wasn’t able to give it as full a treatment as it deserves. So readers, if you’re looking to get into the pairing, beware that you might have to settle for music videos, at least initially.

*On a separate note, the UK soap “Coronation Street” (or as I think of it, “The Myriad Linguistic Accents of the UK’s Working Class”) is setting up another same-sex couple: (heterosexually) married Rana Nazir is having all the jealous feels right now about lesbian friend Kate Connor having a new girlfriend. Per spoilers, Rana and Kate are going to have a relationship.*

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