Saturday, July 20, 2013

TV COMMENT--Has No TV Character Heard of Abortion?

i've written about this before, a year or so ago i think.  but it gets to me more and more.  lately i've been watching the 1999-2004 show judging amy, which i bought on sale b/c i wanted one incredible episode for my class, and now use for my personal nighttime tv.  amy, about which i'll post copiously at some point, was one of that odd spate of daringly progressive tv shows that popped up in that era and then vanished, and i'm awed again by how strong so much of it is.

tonight i watched the episode in which amy's sister-in-law is pregnant, and learns that the fetus may have serious deformities.  when her husband talks to a doctor-cousin, the doc says there are many options, and reminds peter that the fetus is only 6 weeks old. then he says it again. peter is horrified, but does mention it to his wife.

what bothers me, a lot, is not that the wife refuses to consider it: this is totally consistent with her character.  it bothers me that they talk only of 'terminating the pregnancy.'  presumably 'abortion' remains a four-letter word in tv land.

but at least the concept came up. now drop dead diva has a pregnant character, whose pregnancy was announced last year.  this is character who is heavily career driven,  very sophisticated, and very cynical. as it turns out, having her pregnant was a good choice: the actor herself was already pregnant. but there was never a mention that she--the character, not the actor--might consider abortion and then decide against it.

now, on covert affairs, another high-powered career woman is pregnant [i think i read that the actor herself is here too].  but as soon as she finds out she's pregnant, she's totally glowing and smiling. here too there seems to be no moment when she wonders if she wants a baby.

i don't watch every show on tv, so i may well be missing something--but i don't see, anywhere, in descriptions of any tv show, a suggestion that part of the plot might involve abortion or the consideration of it.  as the country continues its rightward trajectory, and abortion rights are in more jeopardy than ever since roe v. wade, i find this very scary--and sinister.  when the concept of 'choice' itself, let alone the choice to abort, is totally absent, we're given de facto lies.  one right wing congressman recently made a joke about women having to return to the coat hanger abortions of old. he may get his jollies imagining women tearing apart their uteri, getting horrible infections, and often dying; a lot of us don't find that funny. if the right wing manages to destroy the fragile, incomplete, but at least somewhat protective roe v. wade decision, women will indeed once more turn to the illegal abortions and self-abortions they were forced to before the 1970s.

in the world of tv fiction, giving us more and more suggestive sexual situations, no one worries anymore about AIDS, women never seem to menstruate, and hot sex [minus, of course, genitals and breasts, always properly covered by the ever-present satin sheets] is apparently so overwhelming that no one considers condoms.  shows which are sometimes brave enough to give us gay marriage, and, occasionally, transgendered characters, balk at the simple realities of unprotected sex, std's, and unwanted pregnancy.  it's a schitzy culture in which women's freedom to act sexually [at least heterosexually]  is honored, but their freedom to choose how to respond when sex results in pregnancy is wholly unaddressed.  i talk a lot in my tv classes about the presence of absence.  in the case of the right to abortion, the absence  looms increasingly ominously.


Anonymous said...

how about the show The Fosters? it had the 2 teenagers who had unprotected sex - getting the morning after pill - and one of the gay moms giving to the girl - because the message was - don't screw up your life by being a teenager and having a baby even if you are religious. I love those lesbian moms ;-)

karen lindsey said...

thanks--i missed the last couple of fosters. glad they're doing that. hope they also warn the kids re stds anda condos. what a great show!