As expected, you came through once again in the last post with your reassuring, nurturing comments to Jay. Makes me wish I knew you all 10+ years ago when I was a neophyte on the infertility journey…
Speaking of great role models when was the last time you went to a movie that involved an infertile character and said, “Dang, now there’s someone I can relate to — in a good way.”
Sure we’ve all seen the portrayal of desperate, neurotic and bitter ‘infertiles,’ but the depiction of someone who can’t have children who comes across as strong, nurturing and funny? Those infertile characters that are hard to come by.
Where can you find such a woman? Australia, the movie that is — though I’m sure many real life nurturing, strong infertile women actually live there, too.
Like any ambitious film, there are some things that could be improved or redone but if you accept that it’s meant to be resemble a 1940s or 1960s epic adventure/romance than you can cut it some slack.
But, I wonder how many people will tune into the subtle, but meaningful portrayal of an infertile woman? There’s more than one scene in the movie that made me tear up, but the scene in which Sarah Ashley and the leading man discuss motherhood and fatherhood?
That one had me vaklempt. Lady Sarah Ashley, you done us ‘infertile’ gals proud!
This movie got me wondering…what are some book, TV, film examples of good and bad infertile portrayals? They’re usually minor characters, but they’re out there…
December 11, 2008 2:38 pm
I’ll tell you who annoyed the ever-loving shit out of me and that was Charlotte in Sex and the City. Tries to get pregnant, throws a tantrum, adopts a baby. Easy as that. THEN in the film she had a biological child. And the way they dealt with it sort of gave the idea that this kid “counted”. Made me sick.
December 11, 2008 2:51 pm
I’m watching a TV show, that is a spin-off of Gray’s Anatomy, the principal character is Dr.Addison, ex-Mrs.McDreamy, that is infertile… Some of the episodes are very good, some not so much… I think the show is not new, but in my country (Portugal, Europe) is passing now. Love your blog.
December 11, 2008 4:29 pm
Well, one that I think does a pretty good job at portraying IF is Brothers & Sisters. They must have a few writers that have gone through it because as far as shows go it seems to be portray the truest feelings.
It is pretty close to my heart because one of the characters (Tommy) has azoospermia and they used donor sperm to conceive. Calista Flockhart’s character (Kitty) is also infertile and she is in the process of adoption. This weeks episode had a great scene between the 2 of them that I thought really summarized what many people in the heat of IF could relate to. Here is a summary.
Tommy and his wife used one of the brother’s sperm to get pregnant. They never knew which one actually fathered the child. Now the baby needed a liver transplant and a bio parent would be best match-mother wasn’t a match. They had to do DNA to identify the father. The show really showed the struggle Tommy was going through-agony for his child, jealousy towards his brother, self-pity for himself. It was all very true. Kitty goes to talk to him. Here it is (I found it online)
Kitty: You don’t have to hide your feelings from me. I probably understand a lot more than you think I do.
Tommy: I doubt it.
Kitty: Okay, well, let me take a wild guess. What you can’t talk about is the fact that you’re angry because for some inexplicable reason, Kevin can father a child and you can’t. And now, after everything you’ve been through with Elizabeth, the one thing that she needs the most, you can’t give her, but Kevin can. And what really sucks is that, deep down, you — you resent him for it. And what makes it even worse is that even deeper down, you’re sick of this — this, uh, grudge that you guys are carrying on, and you really, really miss your brother. You know, Tommy, I really wanted to be pregnant, and I would think, well, how do people like Trish just go out … they don’t even want kids, they have a one-night stand, and she’s immediately pregnant. And of course, I’m very grateful that she’s bringing our baby into the world, just as you’re grateful to Kevin. But it — it’s just that — that little part of you that thinks it’s not fair.
Tommy: Maybe you do understand.
Sorry this is so long, but I had been planning on blogging about the episode and your post made me go do the research. They may not always get it totally right, but for the most part Brothers & Sisters does the best I’ve seen.
December 11, 2008 7:33 pm
The example that springs to my mind is “Mad About You.” Dh & I used to joke that the writers were eavesdropping on us, & they lived in a brownstone apartment building a lot like our first home (although our apartment was a LOT smaller). We were ttc, they were ttc, & it was taking longer than we both thought. There was an episode where Jamie goes in for “a simple procedure to find out why I’m not getting pregnant” (a laparoscopy, I assume — even then, I was annoyed that they wouldn’t/couldn’t call things by their proper names). And she thinks the dr is gorgeous & buys a slinky black negligee that she insists on wearing on the operating table instead of a hospital gown. I thought that was so ridiculous.
Of course, they had Mabel, & I got pregnant & lost the baby, & it got hard to watch. But in the very last episode, they projected into the future: she’s unexpectedly pregnant again & complaining like crazy — then he has a miscarriage, & you see Paul holding her in the hospital as she sobs, “I guess I really wanted another baby after all.” That one came out of nowhere & I bawled my eyes out. They got that one right, even if the earlier stuff was irksome.
December 11, 2008 10:20 pm
The film Unrelated came out earlier this year in the UK. Most of the characters are pretty unlikeable, but the main character is infertile. It is hardly discussed, and she’s treated pretty shabbily throughout, not necessarily because she is infertile, but you do wonder. In some of the interviews the director does make reference to her own infertility.
December 11, 2008 10:24 pm
Some good examples already. There was the something in Paris with Billy Crystal and Debra Winger. It was not a great film, but at least handled the issue head on.
One I hated was Scrubs where Carla goes to the doctor for a “fertility test” and passes and then gets pg five minutes later.
December 11, 2008 10:35 pm
Meryl Streep portraying Karen Blixen in ‘Out of Africa’. I first saw it while DH and I were out of town to attend a ‘destination wedding’ — that I really didn’t want to attend as it was 6 weeks after my ectopic pregnancy and I was still really hormonal. Anyway, we were staying at a vacation rental and I popped ‘Out of Africa’ into the VCR one evening when DH wanted to socialize and I did not. Wow. I was transfixed by this strong woman and how she evolved after discovering she was infertile after her husband infected her with syphilis. I totally didn’t expect a movie about an infertile woman when I started watching it, but this part of Karen Blixen’s life jumped out at me and I felt a strange kinship with the character. If anyone wants a movie with a strong Barren Babe character then check out ‘Out of Africa’.
December 12, 2008 11:46 am
I must watch and read ‘Out of Africa’ again!!!! Since when I did that was a few years ago, very, very far for infertility road, I do not realize that, I don’t remember… What a loss for me, I must do it again!! Thanks!!!
December 11, 2008 11:10 pm
I really liked the portrayal of this subject in the movie “Then she found me” – Directed by Helen Hunt, with Helen Hunt and Colin Firth. I find her rather “brittle” as an actress, but I think in this it really worked. I thought it captured the complexities of age and childlessness. And the pressure from others to “adopt”. It also dealt with Identity, which I think is key to all the decisions surrounding infertitlity.
December 12, 2008 1:47 am
Good post. I am trying to think of roles in tv or film of fertily challenged characters- or the topic of adoptin.
I wrote a post on my blog about how I hate those new VW commercials with Brooke Shields- women are only having babies so they can buy a car? Ugh.
I am an adoptive mom who rode the infertility roller coaster for four years. I just started a not for profit called Parenthood for Me.
Our mission is to provide financial and emotional support to those starting families through adoption and medical intervention.
I am reaching out to the adoption and infertility community to spread the word. Please visit my website and sign up to be on our mailing list. Also, if possible, pass the link on to your circle.
I appreciate the help.
Erica Walther Schlaefer
December 12, 2008 7:25 am
I’m surprised no one has mentioned the “comedy” Maybe Baby with Hugh Laurie who is also having the character of Cuddy in House go through the trials of infertility. The movie made me bawl when I watched it because it was, despite the comedy, so raw with real emotions and complications that only an infertile couple can relate to. And the episode of House where Cuddy lost her potential adoptive child was beautifully acted – and House was every bad person surrounding infertility.
I really liked how they make the bad character of House say all the things we know you should never say and have Wilson (the good guy) say all the right things.
In books? I read a lot of Paranormal Romance (duh), and Kitty from the Kitty and the Silver Bullet series faces infertility due to having the “disease of lycanthropy.” It shows how that permeates without stopping a person. It is one of the better handlings of this in “light fiction.”
I know there is a ton of Science Fiction and Anime with this theme. One of these days I might actually put that post together – but, I’m basically a wee bit lazy about such things. 🙂
December 12, 2008 2:32 pm
Interesting post and comments! I’ve been noting down any infertility-related story lines in films and TV series for a while now, as I have plans for a book project that looks at the (mis-)representation of IF and ART in popular culture, so I was grateful to you for flagging up ‘Australia’ and to Barrenbabe for reminding me of ‘Out of Africa’ (interesting though that these are both historical dramas – why are there so few films set in the present day which offer a more positive representation of women dealing with IF? As you say, it seems that all too often infertiles are portrayed as bitter, neurotic and desperate).
One other TV series that attempted, however superficially, to cover this issue in a humorous way springs to mind: the Monica/Chandler storyline in ‘Friends’.
December 13, 2008 6:18 am
I really want to see Australia but I had no idea the Nicole Kidman character shared this trait with me, I was just in it for Hugh Jackman and lots of horses!
December 29, 2008 5:24 am
What about Jennifer Garner in Juno? I finally saw it the other day; it was too close to home for me to watch during my more vulnerable times. Not sure what to make of it. Like it and don’t like it all at once.
What I like: raw honesty of how she talks to the baby in Juno’s belly (in the mall). Having recently adopted, I really relate to everything she went through.
What I dislike: how she’s portrayed as kind of high-strung, and so ga-ga to be a mother. Just rubbed me as untrue.