San Junipero

Something great that I watched recently: an episode of Black Mirror called San Junipero. It starts with a woman, Yorkie, painfully out of place and inhabiting this strange world, which is like ours…but not quite.

Yorkie enters a dance club, and meets a woman, Kelly, who is delightfully reminiscent of Lisa Tuttle from Saved by the Bell in the best way. Yorkie and Kelly have this cosmic connection. Right at the peak of her infatuation, Yorkie rejects Kelly’s advances. Her regret spills off the screen, and we’re left wondering her next move.

To make matters worse, it seems that Kelly only arrives at the dance club in intervals, and this is a much stranger place than I could have ever expected.

Yorkie searches for Kelly through and across time, passing bygone eras, and lands somewhere in the early 2000s. She finds Kelly and they have a haphazard reunion, eventually overcoming their aplomb and uniting.

Soon enough, we’re to learn that San Junipero is not inhabited by Kelly and Yorkie in their mortal bodies. The part of them that visits are not their bodies, but their consciousness. Each resident of San Junipero is allowed three hours weekly to explore a type of simulated afterlife, with the exception of the people that are already dead, who are there presumably, forever.

Kelly decides to seek Yorkie in her mortal body. A much older and wizened character emerges to find Yorkie hooked to a respirator and a quadriplegic. For reasons more complicated than what I’d like to describe here, she marries her. Yorkie chooses to die and let her consciousness live on in San Junipero.

Kelly isn’t so sure. She’s still grieving the loss of her husband and daughter, who left the world naturally, whether by circumstance or choice. She struggles, but finally elects to die with Yorkie in San Junipero.

It seems like Yorkie is the one that cares more, but Kelly is the one who makes the difficult choice.

That’s a pretty condensed summary of a straight up magical place—but to get at why it struck me in the heart. It feels like Kelly chose a parallel universe over her dead husband, whom she loved very much though she had bisexual tendencies. It felt like Kelly chose life, albeit a simulated one. It also felt dangerous and reckless and thrilling. What if it all falls to pieces? What happens when the infatuation wears off? Didn’t she live a full enough life with her husband and child? Is she selfish for wanting everything? Would you risk the rest of forever with a stranger?

But isn’t that what love is?

Rooting for people and their uncertain forevers,

Nancy

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