How to Evaluate 2020 Netflix Documentary ‘Secret Love’

In this day and age, the expression and practice of love have become increasingly frivolous and casual. When I catch a glimpse of a group photo showing loving affection, I can’t help but call it “fairy love”.I always feel that the word “fairy love” is being used too fast. If there is such a thing as “fairy love”, I believe it is in this documentary.

It was originally planned to have the world premiere at this year’s film festival, but the festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, so it went directly to the Internet instead. It’s a love story 70 years in the making. One of the main characters is Terri Donahoe, who used to be a catcher in the National Women’s Major League Baseball, and her legendary experience was adapted into a movie, Red and Pink League.

But the movie [League of Pink and Red] only shows Teri as an athlete and ignores her daily life. There is another unusual B side to Teri’s life: she is gay. Teri and Patty Hansel fell in love in the late 1940s.

They lived together for 65 and a half years, hiding the secret from their families. It wasn’t until 2009, more than half a century later, that Terri told the truth. After their relationship became public, Teri’s great-nephew Chris Boland became intrigued by their decades together: ‘I’d never photographed a love story between two women before, and at that moment I knew I could give it a shot.’ Thanks to Boland and Teri’s close relationship, Boland documented the two seniors’ most defenseless sides from 2013 to 2018, exposing them to the camera at every minute.

“When they came out, they were like happy little girls who had opened the floodgates and poured out stories about their past to me.” They love each other for decades, never abandon, but it is difficult to see the light; They get along with each other as “friends” and “sisters”, but dare not admit that they are “lovers”. They are wandering in time, preserving themselves in the system, and treading on thin ice in the prejudice of the society.

At the beginning of the film, the doctor calls to check on Terri. Patty takes the phone and tells the doctor that she is Terri’s cousin.

Older Teri has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and her right hand trembles violently. For them, it’s an age when they need to sell their house and move into a nursing home. Sensing that she was not feeling well, Terri decided it was time to come out to her family about a secret she had kept for most of her life. She chose to be the first to tell Diana that they were the closest to each other, like mother and daughter.

Terry was very nervous before telling the truth, because she didn’t want to lose Diana’s love. “We’re gay.” Terri’s body trembled and she cried. Diane went up and hugged her. ‘I don’t care.’ Then Terry gave Diana the authority to tell her relatives at home. From that moment on, Terri felt relieved, too. As the story unfolds, through the narratives of the two protagonists, time travels through the past, along with the display of old photos, a complete love story of Terry and Patty is slowly pieced together. At the age of 19, she was spotted by scouts and joined the Peolia Red Wings of the American Women’s Professional Baseball League. According to the rules of the professional league, women are required to dress like ladies and play like men at the same time. They swat, slide, and bruise in skirts 15 cm above the knee. “In those days, being different was not a good thing.” Terri had to be the one to break the rules because she met Patty.

Less is said about Patty, though it is interesting to note that at the age of 18 she was engaged to a man who later died; During World War II, she dated another pilot who was killed in battle. Later he was with the farmer’s son, who also died because of improper operation of the machinery. The door’s gone awry. Even Patty thought to herself, Maybe I shouldn’t be dating men.

Then she meets Terri and it’s love at first sight, and her life changes. It was 1947, Patty was 18 and Terri was 22.

Looking back at the first moments of our relationship, some of the details were warm and romantic. They went to the rink to play. At the next intersection, Patty secretly handed Terri a note and skated in two different directions to avoid being seen. Terri said it was the most beautiful note Patty had ever written. “I love books and I’ve read a lot of stories, but I’ve never seen a story about a woman falling in love. Most of all, I want it to work both ways.”

The two moved to Chicago and lived together as a couple, but referred to each other as “Cousins” or “best friends.” Because they lived at a time when gay people faced great difficulties and obstacles. From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s, two-thirds of Americans viewed gay people with a sense of disgust, insecurity or fear.

And a bar suspected of being a gay bar could face raids. Women who don’t wear at least three items of clothing they are supposed to wear, or who don’t zip up their jeans, can be arrested on suspicion of impersonating a man and being considered gay. Once identified as gay, everyone’s name would be published in the newspaper, leading to unemployment and even suicide.

Under high pressure, all homosexuals were forced underground. As for Terri and Patty, they are Canadian immigrants. Although they have green cards, they are not allowed to make any mistakes. The situation is bad, but they have their own coping strategies. The two worked together for 26 years at an interior design firm in Chicago.

When they go to work, they strictly follow the rules and dress up like urban beauties, with skirts, lipstick, high heels and full gear. It’s also a means of self-protection.

Even in a routine exchange of letters, he would take extra care to tear out the part where the name was written. The most memorable thing was their kiss in the sandstorm. Because everyone on the street was walking with their heads down, and no one would notice them.

To the family around them, they never open, even the slightest test, is enough to make them shrink back. Terry’s brother, Tom, Diana’s father, had made the most offensive remark: “Terry needs a black man to get her back on track.” Teri’s father, however, was more reasonable and liked Patty. He had said, “I’d rather you were with Patty like this than marry someone who’s going to ruin you.” Even so, Terri didn’t tell her father until he died. For the public opinion and controversy of the outside world, they will not choose to fight, just quietly enjoy their own time, waiting for everyone to accept them that day. Who knew that? 70 years.

In 2009, Terri told her family she was gay; Same-sex marriage became legal in the US in 2015, and on Teri’s 90th birthday, she and Patty got married.

The wedding scene, in the presence of all relatives and friends, each oath is like a reward and recognition for them over the years. Because of the words of the oath, they have done it all. Once they were old, but now they are in their prime.

The wedding was a long-overdue victory, a story of how love can conquer time. When Teri and Patty exchanged rings, they finally didn’t have to hide it from the world. The theme song of the film is Doris Day’s Secret Love, and the meaning of the wedding is captured in the lyrics: Finally my heart opens up and my Secret Love will no longer be a Secret.