Lena Kundera and Bianca Montgomery
Writing and portrayals
The writers characterized resident lesbian and good girl Bianca Montgomery's romantic life as tortured; she consistently fell for heterosexual or unavailable women. When the series showcased her having fallen in love with best friend and confidante Maggie Stone (Elizabeth Hendrickson), this theme was continued. Maggie declared herself heterosexual and told Bianca she was only romantically interested in men. To show Bianca moving on, and to add conflict to Bianca and Maggie's relationship, the writers introduced Lena Kundera in December 2002. Lena, a "sassy" bisexual from Poland, was characterized as a temptress "in the mold of Juliette Binoche". Bianca instantly found Lena attractive and competed for her attention with friend Boyd Larraby (Marc Menard), as they bet on which one of them could date Lena first. Viewers watched as Lena began spending time with Bianca as part of an "evil plan" to take over Bianca's mother's company, but also as she found herself falling in love with Bianca. In an interview reported by the New York Post, Brian Frons, head of ABC Daytime, stated that he considered the Lena and Bianca pairing "much bolder" than romantically pairing Bianca with "longtime" galpal Maggie.
Bianca was 19 and Lena was in her late 20s, around the same age as Boyd. The writers had Bianca win the bet against Boyd, and Lena and Bianca bond easier despite their age difference. Boyd was suspicious of Lena's intentions, and persuaded mother-figure Myrtle Fargate (Eileen Herlie) to chaperone the couple. Though Myrtle saw nothing to convince her of malice on Lena's part, Boyd's suspicions were valid. "Lena has made a lot of mistakes in her past," clarified Eden Riegel, Bianca's portrayer. "She has not proven herself a very nice person. Of course, Bianca doesn't know that. And now Lena is working with Michael (a bad guy played by William deVry) to try to take down Enchantment." Michael Cambias, portrayed by actor William deVry, was scripted as Lena's business partner and lover. As part of a secret plot to destroy Bianca's mother, Erica Kane, and her cosmetics company (Enchantment), Lena was told by Michael to get close to Bianca so Bianca could be more easily manipulated.
The writers showcased Lena's guilt regarding the takeover plan after she developed romantic feelings for Bianca. She refused to continue the manipulation, but was blackmailed by Michael into following through with the takeover. Lena eventually decided to leave town rather than betray Bianca and tell her the truth. She informed Bianca that she could never see her again. "For Bianca, this was a huge disappointment," said Riegel. "Every time she opens up to a woman, she gets her heart broken."
To reunite the couple in dramatic fashion, the show had Myrtle urge Bianca to follow Lena to the airport and demand an explanation; on the April 23, 2003 episode, the two characters shared the first same-sex kiss in American soap opera history. "It's that kind of old romantic airport scene in which the two lovers decide whether they can take the risk and take a chance on love -- only it's two women this time," relayed Riegel. Riegel had never kissed a woman before. "I was a little nervous because I wanted it to look natural and organic and real and true," she said. "I didn't want it to seem tentative." Riegel and Olga Sosnovska discussed practicing the kiss. "We thought about maybe trying it out in the dressing room first," Riegel laughed. "But then we just thought, 'We are professionals. This will be fine." The writers detailed "fun and daring" moves in the episode, such as having Bianca discuss with Myrtle her confusion about Lena leaving her. Myrtle, in her aristocratic British accent, replied, "Maybe it was too hot!" Giving insight into Bianca's unlucky romantic life, she suggested that Bianca loves unavailable women because her mother is always running away from true love.
The physical aspects of Lena and Bianca's romance were heavily downplayed by the series. When asked if she thought she and Riegel had succeeded in living up to the "couple's groundbreaking and progressive" reputation, Sosnovska responded, "Yes, we succeeded to a certain extent. We succeeded in making this couple acceptable." After a pause, Sosnovska continued, "Not acceptable in a realistic sense, since our relationship hasn’t been portrayed truly realistically, which would have been nice." She described Bianca and Lena's physical relationship as "kind of ostentatiously reserved" compared to what gets shown between heterosexual couples, "although I’m quite shocked by what does get shown between the heterosexual couples." Even though the couple had recently started "dating" again, as the writers also scripted a love triangle including Maggie, there was an apparent double-standard regarding intimacy between the same sex lovers; in the entire year of Lena and Bianca's on-again, off-again relationship, the two women had only kissed twice onscreen. The final obstacles given to the couple's onscreen intimacy were Bianca's rape by Michael and pregnancy with his child, which were controversial and seen by viewers as desperate attempts by the network to avoid lesbian love scenes. AfterEllen.com editor Sarah Warn stated that it was a way to assure Bianca's continued asexuality. Warn added that "the pregnant-lesbian storyline" is a favorite refuge for television writers who both want to avoid dealing with the sexual aspects of lesbian relationships and who want to "normalize" the lesbian characters — "to show viewers that, at their core, lesbians are just like heterosexual women — who of course, all want to be mothers". In 2004, though Lena and Bianca were allowed to kiss for a third time onscreen, it came at the end of their romance, as Lena went back to Poland to tend to her ailing mother and the couple was later written to have broken up over the phone.
Reception and impact
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