It’s been over two weeks since The Bear season 2 dropped on Hulu, and one thing is clear: fans really don’t like Claire (Shiva Baby’s Molly Gordon). A medical resident who has known Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) since childhood, the character is introduced early into the season as Carmy’s quirky, soft-spoken, slightly-too-precious love interest. She tells Carmy “You’re The Bear and I remember you,” which is meant to show how meaningful their connection is, but Twitter has not been impressed.
Warning: This article includes spoilers for The Bear season 2.
Maybe the most widely-mocked part of her first scene was her too-charming story about seeing a girl break her arm when she was six. All the other kids were scared, but not Claire. It’s not that she wanted to fix it; she wanted to understand it. It’s the sort of line that might sound cool if you’ve never read a John Green novel, but for a lot of fans, it reeked too much of the manic pixie dream girl trope. She’s a too-good-to-be-true girl whose only apparent purpose in life is to help the brooding male protagonist come out of his shell.
The nail in the coffin for Claire’s reputation came the moment fans first pointed out how similar she was to TikToker Delaney Rowe’s impersonations of an “absolutely insufferable female lead of an indie movie.” It’s hard to watch Rowe deliver these nonsensically “profound” lines with that raspy voice and the constant blushing and not see the connection. No work of fiction can ever be without tropes, but this style of female love interest is particularly well-trodden ground; if a show’s gonna go there, it has to do it a lot better than this.
Most of all, Claire’s big problem is that she never seems to be her own complicated person like every other character on The Bear; she only exists to teach Carmy life lessons about being more open and relaxed. A normal person would’ve stopped pursuing Carmy after he gave her a fake number, but Claire tracks down his number anyway and pushes him to go out with her again. The Bear writes Claire as an adventure, not a person, and the fake number is Carmy’s “refusal of the call” moment. In the logic of the show, Claire’s brushing off of this major red flag makes sense, because she’s written mainly as a quest for Carmy to reluctantly go on.
When it comes to the argument that Claire’s more of a plot point than a character, the final piece of evidence fans point to is her scene in the season finale, where she overhears Carmy’s depressed, self-loathing rant in the walk-in and (seemingly) breaks up with him for it. It’s a contrived, soap opera-esque plot point, one that makes for an unsatisfactory conclusion to a storyline that was already trying fans’ patience. Not only does it stretch credulity that Tina would leave the door without saying anything and Claire would show up without announcing herself, but it also feels like Carmy should be able to fix this just by calling her up and talking to her afterward. We can’t blame Claire for being hurt by what he said, but one should probably take the words of a man trapped in a fridge on his restaurant’s opening night with a grain of salt. If this is where Claire’s storyline on The Bear ends, it’ll be disappointing, but a lot of fans (especially the Carmy/Sydney shippers) are just happy to see her go.
In defense of Claire, most of the problems with her storyline were unavoidable. Any love interest outside the restaurant will inevitably feel a little disconnected from everything else because the show is otherwise all about a bunch of workaholics working in the same restaurant. If the writers of The Bear ever decided to dedicate a whole episode to Claire’s perspective, maybe we’d learn that she does in fact have a rich, complicated life just like the rest of them. But we’ll never get to see much of her life outside of Carmy, because as a well-adjusted person working in a hospital, it would be way too much of a tonal shift.
What’s also missing from a lot of the fandom discussion is just how intentional the storyline feels. Claire is disconnected from everything else on The Bear because the writers wanted to yank Carmy out of his hectic, insular life. She’s alien to us because she’s alien to him. When it comes to things that don’t involve food or family dysfunction, Carmy’s a fish out of water; he’s never been in a normal, loving, straightforward relationship before, and season 2 is the first time that’s ever seemed like a possibility for him. When it comes to serving the basic story purpose of exploring Carmy’s complicated desire for love, or just for a normal work/life balance in general, Claire does her job well. But when it comes to depicting her as a three-dimensional person, The Bear can’t quite pull it off.