Saints Preserve Us

I’m so in love with this Australian soap opera/drama All Saints that I may end up writing a whole series of articles on it. For a country that condemned its most famous feminist, Germaine Greer, it’s done a damn good job of making a TV series where the women are as ballsy and independent as the men – and the men often come across as less mature, more damaged, less entitled then the women. Actually, Australia tends to do quite a good job when it comes to the portrayal of women in television (scripted, at least – don’t get me started on Sandra Sully) that I may do a series of articles on Blue Heelers and Macleod’s Daughters, too.

AS is, I guess, the Australian version of ER (I never watched the show myself), following the lives of doctors and nurses in a ER ward (it used to be set in a palliative care ward; a couple of years ago Kerry Stokes decided the ratings sucked and ordered it frenzied up). There’s a line I love which I’ll have to paraphrase since I don’t have the manuscript, but basically, a patient is being treated by two female doctors and overseen by a male nurse. One of the doctors says something like “˜It’s a sign of the times when a man gets treated by two female doctors and a male nurse’. This is the standard set by All Saints; anything men can do, women can do at least equally as well, and don’t you go forgetting it. The female doctors work out the illnesses behind symptoms as competently as the males; the male nurses are as sympathetic (or as apathetic) as the females. And everyone has the same hassles with outside relationships; they’re difficult, especially given the stresses and hours that go with working the ER ward. But the men do not have stay-at-home wives and girlfriends who, well, stay at home and reward their men at the end of the day despite months and years of neglect. They often leave, something I would think was far more realistic is such a line of work.

And when relationships at work flourish (something I would think quite common, given the hours and line of work) it’s not a case of the women waiting for the men to call and simpering when they do. They’re just as aggressive as the men, and give the men hell when they treat them casually.

Which brings me to the episode I’m reviewing.

In it, an older female lesbian doctor and her best friend’s boyfriend get dumped by their girlfriends on the same day. They go out for (several) pity drinks, have drunken sex, and she gets pregnant, because I would assume lesbians don’t really worry about contraception. And what does she tell him? She’s keeping the baby, and he can do what he likes about it.

She’s not after a relationship (she doesn’t even swing that way – and even if she did, she’s too independent to go grovelling for a relationship because she’s pregnant). She’s more experienced and more senior to him (she’s in her mid-thirties; he’s in his mid-twenties, which puts him just graduated from university, by my calculations) so we can assume she makes more money then him; she doesn’t need his. He doesn’t even have to tell his newly-reconciled girlfriend about it. Basically, he can walk away. She is too secure both financially and emotionally to make him do anything.

Eventually he realises, through no more pressure than his own sense of obligation and paternal instinct, that he wants to be part of his child’s life, and he steps up to the bat. I couldn’t help but wonder if society as a whole was like this – that women were financially and emotionally independent from men – that we would get far more men taking up the obligations of parenthood of their own free will. Given the stereotype of the I’m-pregnant-I’ll-put-the-screws-on-my-boyfriend-to-marry-me, I thought this was a remarkably progressive storyline to execute.

Bravo, Australia. I’m just about ready to forgive you for Germaine Greer.

Comments

  1. Glaivester says

    I couldn’t help but wonder if society as a whole was like this – that women were financially and emotionally independent from men – that we would get far more men taking up the obligations of parenthood of their own free will. Given the stereotype of the I’m-pregnant-I’ll-put-the-screws-on-my-boyfriend-to-marry-me, I thought this was a remarkably progressive storyline to execute.

    I’m not sure that I agree that this idea is that exceptional. You seem to be suggsesting that under current conditions, almost all men (or at least most men) would abandon a child conceived outside of a relationship if they had the chance. I think rather what the case is is that because men usually do not have the choice to do so, we can’t distinguish those who take up the obligations willingly from those who do so willingly.

    Put another way, I don’t necessarily think that “choice for men,” if enacted, would result in almost every man with the choice abandoning their children, anymore than the legalization of abortion caused every women facing an inconvenient pregnancy to abort.

    Not that there aren’t men who won’t have anything to do with their kids unless coerced, but I think that men who wish to be involved in their children’s lives are more common than one might think.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    You seem to be suggsesting that under current conditions, almost all men (or at least most men) would abandon a child conceived outside of a relationship if they had the chance.

    She’s talking about the storyline being a refreshing switch from the usual stereotypes of TV. The word “storyline” appears right there in the quote you italicized from her in your response. She’s not talking about what’s typical or atypical in real life.

  3. scarlett says

    Yeah, I was talking about the sterotype of that particular storyline. I don’t know how representative that is of real life, but there seems to be an awful lot of would-be TV fathers commiting to a relationship (or staying in one that’s on the rocks) just because they had the bad luck to get pregnant. OK, it was a bit of a cop-out, that a relationship wasn’t going to happen because she’s a lesbian but I liked the fact that she was emotionally and financially independant of him and as a result he stepped up to the bat because he wanted to, not because he was ‘supposed’ to. I was reminded of it when the Dubay controversy started, and Beta was arguing that so long as women are financially dependant on men (or at least that men are making much more for the same work) we will have a need for paternal obligations. In this storyline, she was in a better financial position then him, and too independant to go grovelling for a relationship. I thought it was a really refreshing storyline.

    Interestingly, when she miscarries a few episodes later there are a few people who don’t understand why he’s so upset because, you know, that’s another stereotype, that miscarriages don’t affect the fathers. I was thinking of doing a piece on that, too.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    Interestingly, when she miscarries a few episodes later there are a few people who don’t understand why he’s so upset because, you know, that’s another stereotype, that miscarriages don’t affect the fathers. I was thinking of doing a piece on that, too.

    Good idea.

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