The Happy Ending Project: Terina

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For viewers and connoisseurs of lesbian-centric media, it can be fun to discover lesbian material emanating from a normally underrepresented country.

For example, when it comes to lesbian TV pairings, many viewers are familiar with at least some couples from the UK and Germany—and once upon a time Spain—but they are less familiar with pairings from other European countries like France and Italy.

Without a large and committed fan base, it can be hard for word of European pairings to spread outside their home countries, particularly if they air in non-English speaking countries with small populations. This is the case with Teresa and Marina (“Terina”) from the Portuguese telenovela “Paixão” (“Living Passion”). We at AfterEllen have only heard of one other lesbian pairing from Portuguese TV, although we’re sure more must exist, so for Terina to have gotten a happy ending is particularly gratifying.

As far as I can tell, when it comes to overall plot of the telenovela, “Paixão” can best be described as a Portuguese version of “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Viewers only interested in Terina, however, can dispense with it all and just focus on the couple, whose cumulative scenes are lamentably short but are nevertheless sweet.

Teresa Galvão (Cláudia Vieira) is a psychologist who runs her mother’s foster home and is a member of one of the main families on the show. Marina (Patrícia Tavares) is a sous chef who enters about midway through the series expressly to be Marina’s love interest.

Longtime AE readers will know that I view telenovelas as a particularly good genre for lesbian couples on TV.

Telenovelas have hundreds of episodes but are set up for only a limited run (vice an open-ended run like a soap opera or regular TV show), meaning that storylines are written to have start and end points and lesbian characters get a lot of screen time.

Most importantly, same-sex couples on telenovelas have been consistently ending up together (it’s not a coincidence that most of the “Happy Ending Project” articles so far have been about telenovelas). That said, telenovelas, like soap operas, can easily slide into the melodramatic, and “Paixão” is a prime example of that.

When we meet Marina, we learn that she’s just awoken from a three-year coma and has come to town in pursuit of revenge against Teresa’s uncle Duarte, a doctor whom she was dating at the time and whom she believes botched an operation that resulted in her coma. Meanwhile, Teresa and her family are hiding their involvement in the murder of Teresa’s father. Because of course.

A few points about Terina:

  • The Terina storyline, although short, manages to pack in a lot of highlights of any relationship: the honeymoon phase, seeking family approval, dealing with parental homophobia, and planning for the future. The writers chose to avoid a “gay panic” moment on the part of Marina, while Teresa very boldly and clearly establishes her bisexuality. Terina is therefore not a storyline about sexual orientation, but rather about building a relationship under difficult circumstances.

  • Teresa, who is the epitome of the word “statuesque,” is a source of strength for her family members and a fierce protector to them. Marina is her emotional support, a spunky fighter who is always in her corner no matter what. Together, they’re willing to fight for their relationship and build a future for themselves.
  • Unfortunately, the Terina storyline is so tertiary to the main plot of the telenovela that the storyline is extremely brief. In consequence, Terina gets a disappointingly truncated courtship. Their “getting to know you” phase lasts approximately 5 minutes and looks like this:

*Teresa and Marina meet*

Teresa: Hi, I’m Teresa.

Marina: Hi, I’m Marina. I just moved here.

*Teresa tries to kiss Marina*

Marina: Oh, sorry, I don’t like you like that. You know, straight but not narrow and all.

Teresa: Oh yeah, that’s totally cool. My misread. Friendzone, I’m good with that.

Marina, literally the next day: Well, I’ve decided we can date. So, which way to the bedroom? I did some Googling and I think I got this.

*Teresa and Marina now in committed relationship*

  • It would have been nice to see Marina more fleshed out as a character since she’s not particularly given more of a substance than “love interest to Marina.”
  • Moreover, her subplot with Duarte feels too melodramatic. The Terina story could have done just as well without a soap opera coma.

Overall grade: B. Terina is a nice little storyline about love and loyalty, but the show needed to give them more substance and screen time to make them really stand out among other lesbian pairings.

In that way, “Paixão” shortchanged its actresses, who do a great job with the material that they have and really commit to the storyline. In an ideal world, Terina would have had more time to develop and establish a firm foundation for the relationship, particularly in the getting to know you phase.

Nevertheless, the relationship between Terina and Teresa’s mother played out well, as did the inclusion of Duarte as a champion of the pairing. Terina’s ending was very soap opera, to be sure, but a happy ending is a happy ending!

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