The Happy Ending Project: Greta and Paloma

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This week’s happy ending project takes us to Argentina once more to visit the telenovela “El Elegido” (“The Chosen One”), which aired in 2011. Unlike the most popular lesbian TV couples, Greta Sáenz Valiente (Mónica Antonópulos), a lawyer, and Paloma Riccardi (Leonora Balcarce), a fashion designer, don’t have a portmanteau (Gretaloma? Palometa?). They don’t even really have much build-up as a couple. They’re kind of friends, then five seconds later they’re life partners. But you know what? They’re a solid couple and they got a happy ending, so there. And also, Greta is a really interesting character over the course of the telenovela, which is very, very soap opera-y.

“El Elegido,” broadly, follows the life of Andrés Bilbao, an ambitious lawyer who wants to become a partner in the law firm where he works, which is run by the villainous Oscar Nevares Sosa. When the firm’s other partner, Marcos Mariani, dies, Oscar announces that he will make Marcos’ replacement a competition among all the lawyers in the firm, which includes Andrés and Greta. At the start of the telenovela, Greta is closeted, and spends most of her time trying to hide her sexuality from Oscar and her colleagues. This double life involves a secret girlfriend, Gigí (Giovanna “Gigí” Gilardoni, played by Paula Kohan), who is sexually electrical but also frustrated by being sequestered away and acts out, hectors Greta to come out, and eventually gets pregnant by Oscar’s son David. In short, Greta’s life is a hot mess.

Gigí’s pregnancy puts the nail in the coffin of Greta’s relationship with her (Greta later tells Paloma she doesn’t think she ever really was in love with Gigí anyway), and into the void steps Paloma, who starts a client but quickly becomes Greta’s friend and then partner. Paloma is everything Gigí wasn’t: stable, understanding, and sweet. Most of all, she’s an island of calm in Greta’s life as everything around her goes increasingly crazy. When Gigí goes missing, Paloma even helps try to find her. The storyline ends with Greta taking over the law firm (now renamed as “Greta Sáenz Valiente y Asociados”) and Greta and Paloma getting married and adopting Gigí’s baby, making it the happiest ending probably any TV lesbian has ever gotten.

The Good:

  • Paloma expressing her love for Greta is so cute your heart might melt out of your chest. She’s just so absolutely adorable and fluffy and good hearted. She makes Greta dinner, brings her clothing she designed for her, and not once does she ever get mad at Greta…even when Greta tries to break up with her. If Paloma had a patronus, it would be a Golden Retriever.
  • Greta and Paloma kiss a lot and it’s a very natural physical relationship. The two actresses are comfortable touching each other and cuddling. In comparison, American soap operas are light years behind. In the US, even now lesbian kisses are very briefly shown and don’t happen frequently, whereas “El Elegido” allows Greta and Paloma’s relationship to feel very real and comfortable, making it a good model for English-language soap operas to follow.

  • Greta and Paloma have great chemistry, and they’re a good representation of opposites attracting: Greta is dark haired, prefers to wear black and is anxious and driven, while Paloma is blonde, wears lights colors and is relaxed (their differences are also epitomized by the two of them encountering Gigi’s baby for the first time: Greta hides behind a pillow complaining the baby smells while Paloma has already gone out to get diapers and milk and starts cooing at it). In a morbid way, Greta and Paloma’s quest to find Gigí becomes an adventure that bonds the two of them closer together.
  • Greta is a genuinely interesting character who grows as the series progresses. Her “freedom” is hard won at the end, but tastes all the sweeter for it. She’s ultimately a good person with a fierce streak.

The Bad:

  • There is a logic gap between Paloma transitioning from straight friend to girlfriend so large that it gives new meaning to the stereotype of lesbians as U-Haulers. Paloma states her heterosexuality, then what feels like two seconds later she and Greta are making out and immediately have sex and move in together. Like, no joke that’s what happens. Although it’s great the telenovela doesn’t get bogged down in a coming out story for Paloma, it still seems odd that Paloma would go from being straight to being married to a woman in the matter of a few months. It happens in real life, but still unusual.
  • Paloma is sweet and supportive…but she never really stands alone as a character. Her sole role is to act as the comfort blanket for Greta. I wish “El Elegido” had given her just a bit more space to develop an identity that was more multi-faceted than the two-dimensional role with which she ended up. Although her personality was clear, her identity separate from Greta was not.

Overall grade: B. I liked this couple, and Antonópulos and Balcarce did a great job with the material that they were provided. Greta and Paloma are a great exemplar for a loving “partnership” in a couple. That said, it’s hard to get over how quickly Greta and Paloma became a couple given the circumstances under which they met. The show would have benefitted from drawing it out just a little longer.

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