Sunday, February 11, 2007

Some Happy Thoughts

I don't often post anywhere about stuff that I liked--I'm a bit of a curmudgeon that way, I guess. But I watched this week's episodes of Heroes, Veronica Mars and half of House (I fell asleep), and was pretty happy about some elements of all of them.

I want to talk about VM in particular, which I have been hard on lately, and which has received some related criticism for the episode in question. The salon article that linked me, among others, feels that it irresponsibly suggested that RU-486 and the "morning after pill" or "Plan B" are the same thing, and was misleading about the availability of the former. That's not wrong, and the author is right that it's damn important for a show that has a very wide appeal among young women to provide accurate information about a volatile and much-misunderstood issue such as this. But then, that's back in the category of "Should I really expect, nay, dare to even hope, that television writers would consider the social import of the lines they write?"

What I did like is the way the evangelical Christian preacher comes off. Much as my feminism has been on display lately, I do also notice the fact that Christians are rarely well-portrayed on television either. This week's Law & Order did a take-off on the Ted Haggard story that also included the Reverand's devoted wife (played by Julie Benz!) having been a prostitute before marrying him, and hiding this fact from the congregation for the sake of not pissing off their conservative pocketbooks. We see a lot of pedophile priests, abortion-clinic bombers, and on the non-criminal side, hypocritical, judgmental, exceptionally non-loving people. Occasionally we see someone like B.D. Wong's character on Oz, who's at least not crazy, but who is kind of a powerless pushover and not exactly a beacon of hope.

In this week's VM, the mystery of the week revolves around a girl who discovered that she was pregnant, considered an abortion, changed her mind, and was subsequently drugged with RU-486 against her will, leading to a miscarriage. She has been previously established as sexually active with more than one partner. Her father is also a conservative television evangelist. He finds out from the family doctor that his daughter is pregnant (yes, the fact that that is supremely uncool is acknolwedged) and immediately sends her a balloon bouquet letting her know that he and her mother are happy to welcome a grandchild. Veronica goes to check him out later, pretending to be pregnant, and drops the "I bet you'd kick your daughter out of the house if she came home pregnant". He responds by getting teary-eyed and revealing that regardless of the circumstances, he would be very happy to have a grandchild to love, and show his daughter all the support that she could possibly require in raising the child. He was, of course, pro-life, a position I do not share, but which can actually be held by individuals who are not crazy, not hypocritical, and are willing to talk about it from a loving and caring perspective with, say, young pregnant teenage girls, contrary to what we usually see on television (including other characters in this episode). He is in the room when the culprit is discovered, and his daughter gets extremely angry and she moves in a way that suggests that she might get violent, or at least start screaming at that person. He stops her, takes her into his arms and comforts her in such a way that it's obvious he's trying to control his own immediate knee-jerk tendency toward anger as well as hers. He tells her that the person in question did not want to hurt her (she didn't), that she was misguided but acting out of love, and that anger ultimately hurts the person who feels it more than the person it's directed towards. He quotes Jesus' words. Typed out, it kind of sounds like platitudes, but the way it was phrased and acted, including the element that he was clearly making some effort to convince himself at the same time, made it very genuine, and the idea that it would have an impact on the anger Veronica herself was feeling toward someone else did not come off as forced or unrealistic.

I know that this guy came off well precisely because it goes against the predominant expectation of a conservative megachurch--let's not forget television--evangelist. I know the writers weren't really going for the message that some Christians are actually nice, but rather simply the plot twist, primarily. But I'm glad it came in anyway, because Christians, even evangelical ones, even ones who hold some right-wing positions, even television preachers, can in fact be loving, caring parents and people who actually read the parts of the Bible where Jesus speaks and live their lives based on His primary messages. Maybe next time we'll even see a sympathetic feminist--hey, maybe even a Christian one! A girl can dream, can't she?

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