I’m having a bad day. Last night, I had a nightmare about the Bella Swan birth scene from Breaking Dawn. (To summarize: I was Bella.) I’m suffering from BSO, birth scene overload. It all seems so hopeless. The woman is always suffering. She lacks control and agency; surrounded by men, she’s told what’s best for her and then chastised for making supposedly irrational demands. I just can’t watch.
So I took a break from birth scenes to follow a lead (thanks @kristinrawls!) about last week’s episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead, a post-apocalyptic series about a group of survivors trying to avoid zombie bites. This proved to be terrible therapy for my BSO.
Main character Lori is pregnant, but she doesn’t tell her husband Rick because she thinks it’s a bad idea to have her baby, what with all the zombies. She confides in Glenn, another of the group, and sends him to the abandoned town’s pharmacy to find morning after pills. Glenn and his companion Maggie are attacked at the pharmacy and barely make it out alive.
Side note: Morning after pills? WTF?! Lori has morning sickness. She’s already pregnant. Emergency contraception disrupts ovulation and fertilization, and maybe/possibly/probably/definitely doesn’t disrupt implantation. It certainly doesn’t abort embryos. I get the feeling the scriptwriters know they’re spreading misinformation, because at one point Lori says something vague about how she isn’t sure whether they’ll work.
Anyway. Everyone’s constantly telling Lori what to do, as if she’s some wayward teenager. Glenn, looking at her gravely like she’s about to keel over and die: “You need vitamins. Lori, you have a medical condition.” In another scene, Lori gets mad at Rick because he wants to teach their young son how to shoot a gun. He acts like she’s unreasonable/stupid and talks to her really slooowllly, explaining how the boy needs to protect himself. Lori caves.
When Maggie and Glenn return from the pharmacy, Maggie screams “Here’s your abortion pills!” Lori takes the pills (an entire handful of them…huh?), wigs out, throws them up, and in an overwrought emotional scene, tells her husband what happened. Here’s what goes down:
Rick: Instead of telling me, you sent GLENN to get PILLS?
Lori (stammering, terrified): I thought…we have no roof….
Rick: DO NOT PUT THIS ON ME!!!!!!
Lori: You want me to bring a baby into this? To have a short, brutal life?
Rick: HOW CAN YOU THINK LIKE THAT!!!!???? Not even giving it a chance?
Later, Rick says, “you really think I’d make you have a baby you don’t want?” Well…yeah, yes, that’s exactly what she thinks, because of how you proved her right with all the screaming and the “how can you think like that” etc. etc. Anyway, she realizes that Rick must be right (of course he’s right!!), and decides to take prenatal vitamins like everyone thinks she should. Disaster averted.
Sample comment from Walking Dead fans at this episode’s webpage (this is fairly representative): “Lori is a BITCH!!…. I hate her, I hope Rick kills her or Shane but having been said that I disagree with Rick on this, I mean WTF!, you can’t expect a woman to carry a baby in all this.”
Anyone who watches The Walking Dead knows its characters are conservative and its gender roles so traditional they’re reactionary. This anti-choice plotline isn’t exactly surprising, but the hardest pill to swallow is Lori as a sniveling, downtrodden person whose perfectly reasonable protests are framed as nagging whines. And why don’t the female characters talk to one another? Why did Lori go to Glenn in the first place? There are plenty of women folk around, but it seems they hate each other. (Divide and conquer.)
As fellow Bitch blogger Michelle Dean wrote about HBO’s Big Love, “the premise of any television show is almost irrelevant as the basis of any critique, because the key to doing a good job of depicting women is about execution, not playing to type.” When reproductive choices are navigated by a stereotyped character and manhandled by scriptwriters who don’t recognize a woman’s ability to weight options and make decisions, the woman is robbed of her individuality, humanity and dignity.
Previously, on Bringing Up Baby: The Terrifying, Transformational Birth Scene Showdown: Twilight vs. Game of Thrones, Women of Color With Wailing Babies in TVLand
Editor’s note: This post originally listed the character of Maggie as Melissa. Sorry for the mix up!