Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let's Discuss [Serge]

Now that I have returned from my little blog-break, I am not surprised that some things have changed. However, at the risk of destroying the space-time continuum, I am frankly shocked at what I am about to write. I can hardly believe my fingers can hit these words on the keyboard, but here it goes.

I agree with a post on the RH Reality blog.

Seriously, the author has some great points on the lack of abortion discussion on TV:

No doubt there is something to be said about the June and Ward Cleaver days of television. Families today are often greeted with images of sexual violence, general violence, infidelity, alcoholism and drug abuse when watching nightly television programming. But throughout all of the changes, despite all of the "awakenings" that have been carried forward by civil-rights movements, abortion continues to be the only truly boycotted discussion on television and in film. When part of a storyline, it is rarely mentioned by name and even more rarely carried out as a solution. More offensively, the other possible pregnancy outcomes -- false positives, miscarriage, birth and adoption -- are placed before viewers in neat, pretty packages. Rarely do viewers witness the guilt and grief that follow miscarriage. I don't know of any television programs that have placed a woman in grief counseling after giving a child up for adoption (or had an abortion).

On television we can watch as our neighbors devour bugs and worms for money. We can see what happens when a person is asked to answer personal questions in front of friends and family while connected to a lie detector. We can peek in the windows of biracial or homosexual couples. We can be an operating room observer as various surgeries are performed. Through our television sets, it seems, we get nearly every possible opinion and viewpoint on nearly every possible topic. Just not abortion.

Agreed. I believe that more discussion on this topic would be wonderful. I believe most Americans wish to keep their head int he sand regarding this issue. By shedding some light and encouraging further discussion, much progress could be made.

I even think that a documentary on an actual abortion clinic would be great. You would see the truth: many women coming back for multiple abortions and the anguish that is involved for everyone involved. On the other side, you would probably see young women who have no qualms about their decision and would state that the abortion was a good thing for them. I'm not afraid of the truth if presented in a real situation.

In any event, the earth hasn't stopped spinning since I began to write this post, so I guess Steve Wagner is correct - there can always be opportunities for common ground.


  1. I am pretty certain that I sound like a broken record in this discussion, but there is no financial motivation to discuss abortion.

    Commercial media is not driven by any other motivation than profit. Ratings mean advertising dollars, which means money. Big opening weekends at the box office pay back the out of pocket costs and set the movie machine up to reap profits from that point. The media will produce anything if it sells.

    That is what made Tim Robbins recent speech to the National Press Club so idiotic and what makes the pro-aborts complaints about a lack of “real” abortion story lines so lame. I was once an actor and I studied communications in college including journalism. Believe me when I tell you that you do not make money in the media, especially commercial film and television, by intentionally angering ½ of your audience. If you decide to be “activist” in your journalism or productions you will be out of business fast. Look at the colossal commercial failure of so many political films last year. They did so poorly that there are movies that are in the can right now that will not be released at all because the movie industry will not lose any more money on them than they already have.

    I would love an open discussion of abortion as much as anyone would. I just do not see how anyone has any financial motivation to produce it. It does no good to tell the media what they ought to do for the better of society. Society has spoken and they want to see their neighbors eating bugs for money and fictitious suburban wives and handsome doctors having sex and they do not want to talk about abortion. That is what they will get.

  2. Although abortion may not be a favorite topic on TV, it's not entirely ignored. The sitcom Scrubs did more than half an episode on it at the beginning of their 6th season. I've seen the topic come up on ER. During one season of Law and Order SVU, it seemed like the writers and producers were trying to cram abortion down our throats. It also routinely shows up on the news in some form or other of "so and so is trying to destroy a woman's right to choose."

    I would love to fair and balanced discussion of the subject. I'm tired of only seeing it from one perspective whenever it comes up on TV. Scrubs actually did do a fair job in their humorous way.

  3. Eric,

    Many shows have touched abortion, actually most dramas eventually have their abortion episode. They also usually do their very best to straddle the issue. (I am not an SVU fan and can not attest to how they handled it)

    For example, on Everwood the one doctor refused to perform an abortion because he " did not know when life began, but he knew when it ended." As a result, a more conservative doctor performed the abortion in order to prevent the woman from having to revert to a back alley abortion.

    The problem is that no one is happy with that. The pro-lifers are fuming that the abortion happened and the pro-aborts are wondering why it is portrayed as so painful and agonizing. Producers will throw it in as one episode in an 18-episode season so that they can display their bona fide edginess and cultural courage.

    To make it a serious focus of any show or a central theme to a film is usually not a profitable plan. Except for perhaps Dirty Dancing, which is basically a movie about the crazy events that happen because of an abortion. But that movie prominently featured a shirtless Patrick Swayze. That helped overcome the stigma because the audience was mostly women and they were more interested in PS than the politics.

    News media is story driven, and so the abortion debate is largely something that people have become numb to and is no longer news by that definition. News is not defined by what is most important but by what story is most interesting. Death is more interesting than injury, which is more interesting than property damage, and so you report things in the order of interest. That means if the Supreme Court is hearing an abortion case or if Congress is debating abortion you will see it on the news, but the general debate is of little interest to them because it is largely not new or interesting.

    Now ask yourself this question in determining how much discussion on abortion is actually out there in the mainstream. Does the coverage reflect the cultural importance? In the past 35 years, no other issue has so consistently divided people. No other issue has influenced so many elections. No other issue has polarized this nation and held it captive in recent years as abortion has. Whether you are pro, con, or indifferent you can not deny that abortion is the most contentious and ideologically divisive issue of our lifetime. Based on that fact, do you think TV shows and movies reflect that reality?

  4. "We can peek in the windows of biracial or homosexual couples."

    Are biracial couples really as odd as homosexual couples? Does anyone find this statement lumping biracial and homosexual couples in the same basket horribly racial?

  5. I do agree that you can't separate the financial drives from the typical Hollywood story lines, but there are certainly examples of certain topics being repeatedly tried despite the lack of financial success. How many Iraq War movies have been made despite the fact that not one of them have made a dime? We see lots of homosexual driven plots on a number of shows and I have a tough time believing that is for truly financial reasons.

    Abortion is very "icky", even for those who support it. The fact that we have a difficult time having the conversation hurts us more than the other side.

  6. First, it is great to have you back and posting! I for one missed your posts.

    The homosexual story line is tough. Will & Grace, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and the L Word are in fact all examples of commercial hits based on homosexual story lines. Anything that works get copied so we always endure more of any particular subject than we want.

    The anti-Iraq War films were what I alluded to in my first comment. I think that given the negative polling when those films were being made it is not unreasonalble to assume that the production companies believed that people wanted anit-Iraq films. As soon as they realized they did not, after the disastrous failures of some big budget films, they started reassigning release dates to minimize losses. They realize they made a terrible mistake on that front now.

    Abortion is not commercial because it is "icky" and hard and emotionally charging and difficult to portray without alienating everyone in your audience. You can rarely be pro-life anough for pro-lifers and you can never be pro-abort enough for the pro-aborters.

    Finally let me be clear again. I absolutely agree that the proportionate coverage and portrayal of abortion as an issue in the media is very inconsistent with the status and cultural impact of the issue.

  7. Anon,

    That is odd isn't it. I some how missed that, but rereading I am not even certain what the writer is talking about. What show hinges on the titilation of seeing a biracial couple?

    It would hard to read that without a racial component.

  8. Jay,

    I can not disagree with your central point that topics that don't create income generally don't go very far in today's media. You are right. It would be great to be able to bring up this topic at the water cooler after being realistically portrayed on a show the evening before. Alas it is probably never going to happen.


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