Tuca & Bertie (2019)

Perfect Tuca & Bertie Episode Lets Bertie Have Trauma & Kink Without Shame

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When Tuca & Bertie was first canceled by Netflix, I was really heartbroken. After giving the show a full chance and binging it, I fell in love with how it told stories. It was similar to a lot of adult cartoons in the sense that it dealt with trauma, but there was just something unique about the sexual, emotional complexity it allowed the characters to have—especially Bertie—which is why I am so glad adult swim has picked it up and allowed these complex stories to continue.

**Spoilers for Tuca & Bertie/TW: Discussion of sexual assault.**

Back in season one, episode nine, “The Jelly Lakes,” it was revealed that Bertie (Ali Wong) was molested by a lifeguard when she was twelve years old. This trauma left her with a lot of emotional issues around sex and sexuality.

In that first season, she worked under a famous cook, Pastry Pete, who she had a crush on. However, the series always made it clear that Pete was a little sketchy, and as the show progressed, it became clear that he was predatory towards his many female fans and coworkers. When Bertie quits working for him, Pete gaslights her, attempts to ruin her business, and even threatens her physically. But Bertie does manage to break free of him slightly.

Jumping to the most recent episode, “Vibe Check,” while her boyfriend Speckle (Steven Yeun) is playing a video game, Bertie decides to masturbate. During that, she ends up having a sexy dream about Pete, which alarms her. She continues to have these thoughts plague her, to the point where she gets rid of her mattress because it is “tainted.”

Eventually, she goes to her therapist, who explains that these sorts of fantasies may be a part of her trying to reclaim power, because in her fantasies, ultimately, she has control over it. Bertie worries that she is somehow damaged because of being molested and that is why she likes these sort of power imbalanced sex dreams. Her therapist says that even if she hadn’t experienced trauma, Bertie might still be aroused by these things, and it is nothing to be ashamed about.

After talking to her therapist, Bertie goes home to Speckle and explains what she has been going through. He, being the perfect boyfriend, shows compassion for what she is going through and even shares his own sexy baking stories. Later that evening while having sex, Speckle gets a little rough in a way that Bertie likes, and you can see that this communication has only brought them closer.

really appreciated this episode because I think for a lot of people, especially survivors, who are turned on by rough power plays, there is internalized shaming. We wonder what it says about us—if we are broken in some way. But, as the therapist says in this episode, often these fantasies are about playing with power in a way that fundamentally is not threatening because control is never fully relinquished.

Bertie is not broken or messed up; she is finding a way to have power in control over her own sexuality, and I’m glad that a show like Tuca & Bertie could deliver such a powerful message—not surprising considering the episode was written by Samantha Irby, who is endlessly talented.

All this to say that if you haven’t watched Tuca & Bertie, you are missing out on some solid television.

(image: Netflix/Adult Swim)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.