Guest Post: A Last Tango in Halifax Fan Speaks Out

Sarah Lancashire and Nina Sosanya in Last Tango in Halifax

[Recently I wrote that after such a long delay between season 3 and 4 of Last Tango in Halifax, I thought Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) might be ready to move on to a new relationship. The lesbian fan base I thought would respond to this idea did respond – they hated it! After several lengthy comments telling me why my idea that Kate (Nina Sosanya) could be replaced was wrongheaded, I asked one of the commenters to write a guest post explaining her position in detail. Meet guest writer Drea, who describes herself by saying, “I’m just an outspoken person who hates injustice in all of its forms and I refuse to be quiet about it.”
– Virginia

In your blog post entitled “How Can Last Tango in Halifax Atone to Its Lesbian Fan Base?” you make the point that  the only way for writer Sally Wainwright to “seek forgiveness” from lesbian viewers for killing off Kate is for her to create a new love interest for Caroline and cast an English actress who already has lesbians’ “loyal devotion.”

The problem I have with your “solution” is it completely ignores the broader issue that Kate’s death brought into focus and that remains unchallenged to date: the blatant homophobia and racial bias on the program. If or until Sally Wainwright addresses this in her next installment, she will not be luring this [still] annoyed lesbian back to watch or support her TV program.

If Sally ever bothered to ask us how she can make it up to her legions of lesbian fans- the tens of thousands of gay women all over the world who bought her DVDs, who view Caroline and Kate fan videos, who read hundreds of fanfiction stories in which Kate is still alive, who have made Sarah Lancashire into something of a lesbian icon – I would say to her, “You see, Sally, words matter. Every time you had one of your characters uses the pejoratives “dyke” or “mad lesbians” or had the kids at Caroline’s school say or write things  that make fun of lesbians (“Your mum drinks from the furry cup”, and “muff-munching shirt-lifters”), I am sure it got a laugh from the primarily straight  audience.

Even I had to laugh at the creativity of Sally’s famous dialogue. But the thing is, apparently nothing ever happened to those kids who said those insulting things. Caroline never chastised Lawrence for his comment, and we never find out what discipline was meted out to the boy who put that note on the back Lawrence’s shirt.

Nor did Alan say anything to Celia when she commented that Kate’s mixed-race baby “would know its colors.” No one ever called Celia or John or Gillian on their hate speech. In fact, Kate gives Gillian the benefit of the doubt and says her text (“Piss off you mad old dyke”) was probably a joke. Wonderful, kind Kate. She was really the only truly compassionate person on the show, and we all know what happened to her. Great message to send, isn’t it? Don’t be kind, and definitely don’t be gay or black.

I know what some of your readers might be thinking. Hate speech? Really? It’s only a TV show. Sally doesn’t need to be politically correct. But you see, calling someone politically incorrect just gives one license to demean entire groups of people. Just look at Donald Trump.

I watched Last Tango in Halifax not just because of the lesbian storyline, but because for most of the first two seasons it was life-affirming and positive. Yes, I was bothered by the undercurrent of mean-spiritedness at times, but I kept waiting for Caroline to berate these characters in her famous headmistress manner. It never happened. Instead, Sally continued to make grieving Caroline, the lone remaining lesbian character, the butt of jokes. And, even worse, Caroline’s relationship with hate-spewing Celia became better than ever! Not only is this annoying, but it seemed totally out of character for Caroline.

There’s enough  hatred and name-calling in the world. Just turn on the news. I’ll stick to truly life-affirming shows like Call the Midwife, thank you. Maybe we will never get those sweet lady kisses we lesbians so appreciated on Last Tango, but at least they treat the lesbian couple and people of color with respect on that show.

So, instead of pandering to us by bringing in a recognizable, not to mention attractive actress to play Caroline’s new love interest, in my opinion Sally Wainwright can only make it up to me and many lesbian fans by taking a page out of Heidi Thomas’s book and bringing back kindness and emphasizing the importance of standing up to bullying. She needs to prove to me that these things didn’t die with Kate. Otherwise, I won’t be watching .

10 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Last Tango in Halifax Fan Speaks Out”

  1. Despite what we would like, there is no firm obligation for these writers, producers, directors etc to have a moral or social conscience and even if they did, it doesn’t necessarily have to agree with that of viewers. Unfortunately, their only true obligation is to produce a tv series that brings in viewers. Having said that, I am still to this day, incredibly affected by the death of Kate and the callous, thoughtless way this wonderful couple was taken from us. The only truly effective way to show them that we don’t approve of what has been done is to make sure the viewing figures reflect our opinion.
    The chemistry that Nina/Kate and Sarah/Caroline had on screen was an incredibly rare thing and wouldn’t have become truly apparent until they started shooting the show. It’s not something I think that they will ever be able to recreate.

    1. Having been an avid LTIH viewer, I could not agree more with this post. Indeed, I am still effected by the awful turn the show took. I think it is past time we acknowledge how much media plays a role in our society. Indeed, words and actions matter – especially when the show has been marketed as a “heart warming drama”. The complete lack of on-screen apologies for really terrible behavior was just appalling and irresponsible. Indeed, writers can create whatever storyline they wish – but they must also accept the fallout of said storyline. Sally Wainwright’s explanation for that plot twist was weak at best and it made me realize she was simply at the limits of her story-telling ability. It really was too bad – it could have been so different.

    2. Exactly. There was real chemistry between Sarah and Nina. Would be very difficult to find it again with another actress. Wish Nina could be re introduced as a family member of Kate.

  2. Pingback: Fighting Against Sexism, Homophobia, Racism, and Ageism on our Screens - Old Ain't Dead

  3. There are so many ways for tv to bring back the dead that Ms Wainwright should have no trouble finding an acceptable one. But is she willing. I would also be happy to see them have their own series with some cross-over. Mr Jacobi and Ms Reid cannot contnue (regretably) forever. This could be a gentle segway for the cast and crew. In any event, Caroline and Kate should not be lost and the suits at the BBC should see that, if only from their fiscal view.

    1. Caroline
      I have read all that I can find on the sudden loss of Kate. I was as shocked as was the rest of the lesbian fan base. I think Sally wrote herself into a corner and this was a quick out. Celia made her feelings known about C & K as a couple by not attending the wedding. If that feeling would continue, Kate would live, how difficult would that be for the happy couple to contend with. As far as another love interest for Caroline…this would have to be handled very carefully. I speak from experience, I lost my partner, BFF and love of my life, in late Sept 2015. Could I get involved with another woman…..not for a long while.

      1. So sorry for your loss, Carolyn. It must have been painful for you to watch this series unfold.

        I know Sally Wainwright will take us somewhere dramatic with this story. What that will be is anyone’s guess.

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