By Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual
Two broadcast television series the week of January 22nd featured prominent narratives on teenage pregnancy and abortion. A rare coincidence, indeed — or perhaps not, giving January 22 is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In Private Practice (“Best Laid Plans“), a rich black family’s 15-year-old daughter, Maya, gets pregnant and grapples with having the procedure. In Friday Night Lights (“I Can’t“), Becky, a minor but regular character, is a working class sophomore in high school also dealing with the same issue, albeit with much less parental guidance (her single mother).
Both shows, in my opinion, feature good storytelling and try to do justice to this difficult issue, in ways that suggest networks are finally moving forward on an issue still most famously explored in 1972 in an episode of Maude (later again on Roseanne).
Television (film too) is infamous for its silence on abortion. If a character gets pregnant, it’s an easy bet she’ll have it. So ironclad is the pregnancy rule it ruins all the drama from the plot point. Pregnancy = baby. Major characters rarely even discuss it (Sex and the City, season 4 did); “abortion women” leave shows quickly. Even adoption is rarely broached. So both Friday Night Lights and Private Practice deserve credit for even using the “A” word, several times, and actually dealing with the issue head-on.
The shows take two different paths. Yes, unbelievably, on broadcast television, a character actually goes through with the procedure.
Friday Night Lights Goes There
I should first be clear: I don’t think television needs to show more abortions. I do think, however, their near complete silence on the issue betrays the fact that this happens, everyday, right or wrong.
When Becky, who attends East Dillon high school and lives next to former Dillon star Tim Riggins (he’s her mom’s tenant and former one-night-stand), said she was pregnant last week, I wasn’t sure where Friday Night Lights would take it on. But the show privileges its sense of realism, reinforced by its documentary/hand-held camera aesthetic, so I thought if any show would “go there,” it would.
Read the Post Television and Abortion: Two Shows, Two Different Paths