Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Question For Amanda Marcotte: Who Gets Family Planning Advice from "The Walking Dead"?

OK, I know this is a stupid thing to bring up, but there's something about this post that just completely rubbed me the wrong way.
Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead created a massive internal conflict for me. As explained at Jezebel, the episode featured a character who has discovered her pregnancy, and understandably, considering the zombie apocalypse, feels this isn't the right time to bring a new baby into the world. (She also understandably fears for her own safety, since giving birth in a ditch without medical assistance is associated with a high maternal mortality rate.) So she obtains morning after pills, takes a bunch of them, throws them up, and then, according to TV tradition, decides not to abort because in TV-land, there's never a good reason to have an abortion. No, not even if it means being ripped limb from limb by zombies.

The problem with this storyline, outside the tedious fear of getting letters from irate anti-choicers that dictates TV's near-absolute approach to unintended pregnancy, is simple: Morning-after pills are not abortion. You can't even get abortion pills from a typical pharmacy, since RU-486, the actual abortion pill, is dispensed mainly at doctor's offices.


My honest impression is that whoever came up with this plot also mistakenly thinks that morning-after pills are abortion. If they had intended the misinformation to be a comment on the characters' ignorance, there was no indication of it.

As Erin at Jezebel points out, no matter what the intentions of the writers, what was on screen was simply distracting. It could have been avoided altogether by simply having the character take RU-486 instead of morning-after pills. It's hard to trust the show's portrayal of the larger philsophical and emotional issues around such a traumatic pregnancy situation when they can't even spend five minutes on Google to get the biology right.

I'm calling bullshit for a couple of reasons. First, with all due respect, I don't think anyone is getting family planning advice from "The Walking Dead".

Secondly, it's a drama, it's not a documentary.

Conflict creates drama. The writers are having these characters improvise as best they can with what they have. And that includes limited medical resources. When the Glen character hands the pills to the character who is pregnant, Lori, he asks her if she thinks they will work. She honestly answers, "I don't know".  Next we clearly see her OVERDOSE on the pills - I think it's safe to assume Lori didn't take the recommended dose because she knew she wasn't taking the correct pill. But she's doing the best with what she has, hoping an overdose will somehow work. It's an act of desperation.

It was risky for the show to trust the audience to get that, but I appreciate it's a risk the writers were willing to take. It's one of the reasons I like the show so much.

After that, Lori realizes how conflicted she is, and vomits the pills back up. Then she does what she should have done to begin with and tells her husband she's pregnant (and that she had an affair and all the other crap she's been withholding from him). Rick, the husband, clearly wants the baby, but also tells Lori he would never force her to carry it to term. They talk about it like adults. The word "choice" is bandied about more times than I can count. It's dramatic.

I consider myself a feminist and very pro-choice.  I'm well aware that women's reproductive health is under constant threat these days, so I appreciate how this subject is a sensitive one. Clearly it's one that Marcotte felt strongly enough about that she needed to say something (side note: having a photo of two male writers from "The Walking Dead" laughing - presumably laughing at women - included in that post doesn't help)

Again, with all due respect, this is a really stupid hill to die on.

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