Woe Is A Tragic Backstory

Friday, 2 February 2018

This blog has lain bare for a while now. I feel as if I've almost run out of writing steam. Perhaps it's the anticipation of being critiqued again in a few months (as many of you know I have applied to start my masters degree). But it's also that I've simply been so busy. I've got three, sometimes four, days a week where I've something to do and that's a lot, actually I think it's too much. I probably class myself as an ambivert, but it's times like this when my introversion really shows. We're only four weeks into the new year and it feels like much longer, I'm exhausted already.

However, before I have a shower, and before Edith starts really having a go at me I wanted to try and type up one of my gripes. THE MEDIA. There's something about every kind of media that grinds my gears, but I'm talking about television and film in particular at this point. 
You won’t have noticed it before but pregnancy and babies are all over the place, from when you're out and about, to just trying to keep yourself busy with netflix, it's almost impossible to get away from. After losing Ezra, and my miscarriage, it was as if the world of pregnant women, and babies, and young children, were just out en force, out to get me, out to rub it in. Everywhere I looked there was something, a pregnant woman or a young baby that would make me think two things, one: enjoy it while it lasts Sweet Summer Children, and two: why are you here in my fucking face (because obviously they knew and were doing this on purpose). Pampers and aptamil adverts? A personal affront! Awful.



Much of the time in media – television, film, novels, etc – it is used as a way to give a woman (99% of the time) a tragic backstory. Often this female character needs a way to explain the fact that she is more “masculine” than those around her. Lets look at How To Get Away With Murder, on Netflix, as an example (spoiler alert if you haven't seen it!). Prior to the stillbirth of her son, via c-section, Annalise Keating is an outwardly kinder person, she actively tries to protect the underdog despite her active legal case, however after his birth she steels herself off, becomes this more masculine, harder, version of herself. This manifests as a kick-ass criminal defence lawyer, as if without this tragedy she’d not have been quite as good at it. We can look at Outlander on STARZ/Amazon Prime, where our main character Claire loses her firstborn daughter (I believe stillbirth, and slightly premature, but don't quote me on it) and after this she changes into a more determined, no-bullshit woman. In Outlander's case this isn't actually mentioned again until she's in labour with her next child, and it's not the only case of infant death it shows, as at one point she finds a baby in a tree, who dies in her arms and they show it. Quite graphically. And that's really just two of the many, many examples.

And apparently it's okay if it's not real. Let us look at the case of Still Born, Still Loved, and how that has struggled to be shown on mainstream television. Why? Because it was deemed "too sad" and "too graphic". The death of a child, of actual children who have actually died, is too much apparently, but it's perfectly fine in the case of Call The Midwife and Eastenders on BBC. It's okay when outlander shows us on channel 4. But not when it's real - didn't you know that nobody wants to see that!? I will link to the change.org petition regarding SBSL a little bit later.

So I want to clear something up here:

Baby loss is not character building. It does not make one more or less resilient than they had been prior. Not as television to have you believe. It does not make one more or less bitter and angry at the world than they had been prior. At least not for the long run. It is not a personality trait.

While, yes, I admit, many of us that have lost their children do become seemingly harder, the truth of the matter is, I have found, that we all soften. We have been through the wars and now, rather than thick, scaly dragon scales, we are the soft, butterleather underbelly. We have been forced to open up endure and most of us continue to do so out of a deep caring. To experience that kind of love and loss so entwined opens you to the helplessness that people can feel, and creates in us a want to protect others from it. It is why, for example, so many of us turn to charity work to support Tommy's, The Lullaby Trust, SANDS, and Bliss. It is why I write this blog, to remind people that you're not a monster for thinking "why me and not her/them?". 

I'm @ing all writers here: stop using out missing children against us, as a reason for our anger, and start making them the reason for our kindness.

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