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.