Saturday, June 29, 2013

Infertility on TV and Movies

Infertility is hardly ever treated delicately and with necessary understanding by the media. Instead, it usually perpetuates the stereotypes that the infertility advocates try so hard to bust.
**Possible TV and movie spoilers ahead**

I originally began this post as a rant in response to an episode of Modern Family I had watched last season. Yes, it was a long time ago. Yes, I'm still miffed about it. This episode started with Phil and Claire talking about some friends of theirs. They said that these friends couldn't have children, and that they were so lucky because they could travel, have nice things, have more money, and go out whenever they wanted. Phil and Claire then wished that they were in their friends' situation. The rest of the episode showed how awful kids are, and how much it sucks to be parents. The writers then attempted to make it somewhat "happy" in the last 30 seconds when the parents said, "Even though everything about this sucks, it's worth it."

I was so angry by the end of this episode that I resolved to never watch the show again (which, admittedly, wasn't a hard decision, seeing how it was a pretty dumb show to begin with). It wasn't just that the parents were complaining about having kids. All parents do that and can relate, so I understand when shows do that sometimes, even if I grumble through the whole episode. I was angry because they wished they had the "glamorous and luxurious" life of an infertile couple. Being infertile is in no way glamorous or luxurious, and it definitely should not be envied. This stereotype is one of the most damaging and hurtful.

Another example of poor representation of infertility is in the show How I Met Your Mother. Robin, one of the characters, went in to see her doctor one day, had one test done, and left with the news that she will never be able to ever have children ever. Diagnosing infertility is never that easy, and certainly can't be decided on one test alone. I admit that there is usually only one test for a male to see how things look on his end. But for females, there are endless amounts of tests to determine everything about her fertility. Unless Robin was completely lacking in ovaries or a uterus, she would not know she was completely, truly infertile after one test in one day. It's a grueling, expensive process that is emotionally taxing.

Further is an example from Grey's Anatomy. The main character, Meredith, finds out after trying for a baby that she's infertile. I do give it partial cookie points for showing the difficulty with taking fertility medication and possible side effects. However, after adopting and not trying to get pregnant, one day *poof!* she's pregnant. And has no complications, carries to full term, and delivers a baby. While this situation does happen in a very small portion of infertile couples, it's not a common one by any means. One of the biggest misunderstandings that people believe all the time is, "Just adopt, and then you'll get pregnant!"

A similar one happens in multiple shows and movies. A character can't get pregnant. She stops trying. Magically, she immediately gets pregnant without help despite all of her problems. The best example I can think of with this is the movie Baby Mama. Tina Fey's character wants to have a baby, but is infertile. She hires a surrogate, and hilarity ensues. By the end of the film, Tina Fey magically overcame all of her problems without treatment or even trying at all, and got pregnant by having sex one time.

While I appreciate that the topic of infertility is brought up for audiences little by little, there are a lot of problems with how it's portrayed. So in the end, you have to ask, "Is it better for media to bring up the topic, flaws and all, or is it more damaging to the overall cause of the advocacy efforts?"


Schutzenegger said...

Jerk Moment:
Pretty much all of those movies/shows are awful without their terrible treatment of a serious issue.

Amanda Grace said...

I felt this way with Sex and the City's Charlotte. In the movie, at 44, after adopting, "poof" she's pregnant. And it's not high risk (which at 44, it usually is) because she's just a joggin' away down the street, belly 'n' all. Not far fetched at all!