Sunday, January 2, 2011

TV Twist: OMG she's pregnant!

On TV, you rarely see all of the options for women who've become pregnant by accident.  You also don't often see women who become pregnant on purpose.  Thinking over the shows I watch, I've thought of some examples:

Completely unplanned:
Ross and Carol (Friends: ex-spouses)
Ross and Rachel (Friends: just friends)
JD and Kim (Scrubs: just started dating)
Jordan and Dr. Cox (Scrubs: first while they weren't together, then while together) twice
Angela and Hodgins (Bones: while married, not planned)
Jack and Avery (30 Rock: in a non-exclusive relationship, then together)

Phoebe (Friends: surrogate for her brother and sister-in-law)
Carla and Turk (Scrubs: tried to conceive for months)

Angela and Wendell (Bones: Angela's test was a false positive)

So I don't watch a ton of shows, but that's okay!

So we see a ton of unplanned pregnancies, only a couple planned, and a situation where initially, a character believed herself to be pregnant.

Let's look at the results for the unplanned pregnancies:

Ross and Carol (Friends): Carol has the baby, and little Ben shows up from time to time until season 8
Ross and Rachel (Friends): Rachel decides to have the baby no matter what, and she and Ross end up as a family with their daughter
JD and Kim (Scrubs): The two decide to have the baby even though they only just started dating.  They end up long distance, and Kim lies about having a miscarriage because she wants to stay at her new job.  They get back together, but JD never forgives her, and they end up breaking up when their son is born.
Jordan and Dr. Cox (Scrubs): The first pregnancy gets them back together as a couple, even though Dr. Cox doesn't know he's the baby's father until after it's born.  Their second child is born after Dr. Cox has had a vasectomy.
Angela and Hodgins (Bones): They're already married, and while the pregnancy was unplanned, it wasn't something they assumed they'd avoid.
Jack and Avery (30 Rock): Avery's pregnancy results in Jack finally dating her exclusively, and they plan to get married.

First off, Avery from 30 Rock and Kim from Scrubs are both played by Elizabeth Banks, who I guess is now the go-to actress if you want a male TV character to get his girlfriend pregnant by accident.

Why such weird unplanned pregnancy situations?  It's especially when couples like Turk and Carla struggle so much to have their first child (and couples like Chandler and Monica end up having to adopt instead).  I guess on TV, the moral of the story is that if you're a married couple trying to have kids, you will usually have trouble.  If you're not trying, or you're not married, or you're carrying your brother's babies,* then it's super easy.

The thing is, these are ways to make TV "more interesting."  How did the Friends writers revitalize the series after season 7?  Rachel gets pregnant.  How do we add drama to Turk and Carla's relationship?  Make it hard for them to get pregnant.  And how do we make Jack pick between two women?  Get one of them pregnant.

What this means, though, is that we lose a lot of perspective.  We see unplanned pregnancies resulting in babies extremely frequently.  We see the few couples who want to have kids struggle to do so.  We tend to lose the stories of the men and women who decide to start a family and then ... start a family.  And, most importantly, we rarely, rarely see unplanned pregnancies ending in abortion.

Of COURSE these women are going to choose to have their babies--otherwise, the storyline gets cut short.  Pregnancy can last for a whole season; an abortion needs to happen quickly.  Pregnancy and parenthood present writers with tons of options for storylines, but also often can be pushed to the sidelines if necessary.  There can be pregnancies, but not every episode has to focus on it.  And very often, even once characters have children, those children mysteriously "disappear" when it's inconvenient to have them around.  Everyone seems to be able to afford a nanny, or the grandparents will babysit, or something else that gets the babies out of the picture.  Convenient.

Abortion ends quickly.  It's over.  And because PTSD-from-abortion is bogus, there's not a lot of, "OMG so sad about my decision!" that comes afterwards.  The only reason to include abortion, it seems, is for controversy.  Because if you can't get a long, fun storyline from pregnancy, then why have one at all?  In TV, characters only get pregnant to further the plot.  Abortion clearly is not an option there.

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