So, it’s been a while…February was an incredibly crazy month for me – between work, trying to keep up with a life outside of work, and all the other drama, I haven’t had much time to reflect on pop culture. But now it’s time to jump back in. I’ve been working on several ideas over the last few days – jotting down concepts and themes I’ve been thinking about over the past month and making them reality this month.
I’m going to start with something a little morbid, and surprisingly it’s not Shutter Island (I know it’s probably awesome, but I can’t get into horror, even when Leo is the face of it). You’ve been warned. Leave now if you’re already in a bad mood, because this is not a happy-go-lucky post.
One of my favorite television series is Brothers & Sisters, which unfortunately, has been all over the place this season. The plots have been contrived and ridiculous, summed up as “Oh no, I can’t tell my family that, but oh they found out anyway, and now I’m going to make a big fuss about how I didn’t want anyone to know but really I did want people to know, so now I’m just going to whine about it.” Not that families don’t actually do that on occasion, but unlike previous seasons where those tensions were nuanced into interesting family communication dynamics, they've devolved into campy banter that rarely hits its mark.
So I wasn’t entirely surprised by the crazy turn of Rebecca’s pregnancy, Kitty’s cancer, Kevin's issues, Nora's man-crush and all the other dramatic silliness. It was kind of an escape, a way of saying, hey, my family communicates oddly sometimes, but we’re not that bad. I guess since the show falls in that landscape for me, I wasn’t prepared for it to hit home as closely as it did with the Valentine’s episode – Rebecca loses the baby, and Emily VanCamp brilliantly conveyed the isolation and frustration of the situation in painfully accurate terms (despite some poorly written dialogue). Her desire for comfort is contrasted with a need for “something to go as I plan,” her inability to talk about loss, though not written particularly well, captured the struggle many women face after the loss of a child.
Last year at this time, I lost a child. It was one of the most devastating, life changing events I’ve endured. And the sad thing is that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, but miscarriage is so rarely conveyed in public contexts, it continues to be a silent struggle for millions of women who have difficulty expressing their experiences in a culture surrounded by representations of healthy pregnancy and birth. Culturally, we understand grief when it is attached to a person – there are traces of that person that can be understood after loss – but when the person has yet to be, the only person they were “real” to in a sense is the future mother (and to some extent the future father). Support networks are essential in dealing with grief, but often an individual’s interpersonal network might not know how to support grief associated with the loss of a vision of how life was supposed to be, or might have been.
Not to be entirely morose, I think the experience put me in a much better place today, as terrible as it was at the time. But I think it’s important that popular culture takes up these hidden, yet serious, issues as part of a fictional landscape. There is something to be said for an image, beyond statistics, an embodiment of grief, that is missing from our cultural lexicon of images. Grief in popular culture is momentary, not pervasive; a narrative catalyst to move characters forward in particular way, not an event that forces one to look at life like a kaleidoscope, seeing every angle of what might have been, or what could be. The good part is that grief can warp things out of focus or pull them back into clarity you never thought possible. I’ll be interested to see how they finish the line – and I hope it’s not some trite write out that basically ends with Nora solving everything by being super mom.
Guess I needed to get that off my chest and start there. I promise the next post will go back to silly pop culture stuff with less personal stuff – still working on finding a balance of those voices for this venue.