I have a question

It strikes me that a pretty high percentage of single female television characters over the age of 30 suddenly feel an urgent need to have a child, and start having fertility treatments and various other medical procedures that I don’t feel like delineating at this time. It happened to Scully, leading to a long, dismal series of subplots; and now it seems to be happening to Cuddy on House.
Now I have to ask, does this happen a lot in real life? Because if not, I say enough already. Actually I say enough already anyway. This does not make for good television (or good movies, as Hugh Laurie at least should have known already anyway.)

8 Responses to “I have a question”

  1. KDC says:

    Um, yes, this happens A LOT in real life. I’m surprised you haven’t run into it – even in CRC West Michigan circles, I would imagine that many women haven’t had kids by 30 and hear the clock.
    No personal offense intended, of course – we really do know very many people in this boat, including a successful in vitro and a number of multiple miscarriage (and one stillbirth) who are still dealing with these things. It’s rough, but a good time to be a good friend to those couples.

  2. michele says:

    I believe you. I too know couples who have struggled with infertility etc.
    What I was wondering, though, was not whether many people experience the emotional pain of infertility, because I know many people do, and I’m very sorry if I seemed to imply that they didn’t.
    My question, though, wasn’t about infertility but more about why this is such a common motif among television characters–specifically single women whose problem isn’t so much infertility as lack an obvious father candidate. I wonder why for so many such female characters, it’s not considered enough that they excel at their careers and have successful personal lives (even though they’re not married); a maternal instinct has to be tacked on to the characters and made a central aspect of the show regardless of whether this fits the characters or the show’s plot.
    Because I suspect the number of single, successful professional women who suddenly decide to have children on their own is vastly higher on TV than in real life, I was just wondering what this means. Is it a remnant of pre-feminist thinking

  3. jrau says:

    Yeah, it does seem that most female television characters go through this at some point, usually a couple years into the show. I suspect it’s at least partly attributable to simple narrative laziness on the part of the show’s writers. After a few years, when the show has hit a storytelling plateau and you don’t have any brilliant ideas for things to do with your show’s characters… well, you can always have one of the women decide to have a baby. Instant emotional drama!
    But then again, maybe I’m just bitter than they pulled this stunt with Scully about 50,000 times throughout the course of “The X-Files.”

  4. Jeff says:

    I think the easy answer is that it’s a bit of both. If a show lasts long enough, or simply wants to get over that three or four year hump, you can be sure someone is going to have a baby. It’s hard to think of a show where that didn’t happen. Happy Days maybe? But that was back when people didn’t have babies on tv. They just showed up as toddlers, or teenagers.
    But, it is a reflection of reality. Even if someone already has children, there seems to be this “over thirty-five, the kids are teenagers, we’d better refill the nest before it’s empty” thing. I’ve known quite a few people who’ve done that. It works with the single woman with no kids situation too. Someone feels pretty happy in their professional life, has enough money, has a nice place to live and simply wants to pass that on to someone else.
    This all works with guys too by the way. We have biological clocks as well. We just can’t do it alone so well. 🙂

  5. kim says:

    I think some of it is a greater willingness of producers to write the actresses’ actual pregnancies into the plot lines. Although it makes for increasingly trite stories, I for one am at least a little happy to no longer see the mom on The Cosby Show hiding behind grocery bags for an entire season to hide the actress’s pregnant belly, or the early days of the X-Files when a visibly pregnant Gillian Anderson just wore really, really large trench coats or sat in a lab behind tall counters.

  6. jrau says:

    Interesting. The actress’ pregnancy angle is something I hadn’t considered. But it makes sense, especially given that our idealized female stars tend to be of childbearing age. I don’t know what our societal hang-up was with showing pregnancy onscreen a decade or so back, but it certainly seems healthier not to try and hide an actress’ pregnancy via camera tricks.
    It would be interesting to see a list of shows that have adapted their storylines to accomodate the pregnancy of an actress.

  7. kim says:

    Off the top of my head, Friends, Sex in the City, Six Feet Under, and Deep Space Nine have all incorporated actresses’ pregnancies into the shows’ story lines, some more creatively than others. I’m sure there are others.

  8. michele says:

    hmmm, maybe I just don’t understand because I don’t have a biological clock. Or maybe it’s messed up because all of the clocks in my apartment register different times. But I do have an Atomic Clock, so if it starts saying anything about having babies I’ll know it’s correct.
    I think Alias recently wrote the main character’s pregnancy into the script.

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