Stupid TV, be more honest

Last night the WB’s Everwood explored the subject of abortion. It’s such a don’t-go-there topic that advertisers dropped that episode of the show leaving the WB scrambling to replace them. But for all the fear and hype, the show was amazing.

Rather than take one extremist slant or the other, the show faithfully explored both sides of the issue. They actually engaged in an honest and valuable discussion about one of the most controversial topics in the last 40 years.

The decidedly liberal Dr. Brown was approached and asked to perform a quiet abortion for an 18-year-old girl in the small Colorado town of Everwood. Brown talks with the girl and encourages her to explore her options before making a decision. He stresses that it’s her choice, but that it’s a traumatic decision. He urges her to talk with a counselor.

Throughout the show, Brown goes through a transition, at first grudgingly willing to perform the abortion, but then deciding against it. He presents both the pro-choice views he and his late wife once supported, and the pro-life view that he finds himself leaning towards. In the end he decides that he cannot personally perform the abortion. The girl is referred to another doctor and goes through with the abortion, though it’s not portrayed as an easy choice.

There’s even more twists to the story that make it more intriguing, but I found myself amazed at how delicately and honestly they approached the issue. They may not have had the adamant pro-life stance some Christians would hope for, but they didn’t just spew left-wing rhetoric either. They wrestled with the issue in a way no one seems willing to do today. They admitted the pros and cons of both arguments and acknowledged the shitty situation for what it is, no matter how things turn out.

The sub-plot to the abortion issue involved Delia, Brown’s 8-year-old daughter, discovering a porn magazine, forcing Brown to broach the issue of sexuality with his innocent daughter. The maturing of his daughter made for a nice foil to the abortion story (OK, that’s the writer in me), but I was more impressed at the honest portrayal of real parenting. Brown sat his daughter down at the table to talk about the magazine. Imagine trying to talk to an 8-year-old who just saw Penthouse for the first time. A sitcom would play it up for laughs. 7th Heaven would make it an easy and cheesy discussion, wrapped up nicely in a minute and half. A lesser drama would have rushed the scene, ending it with parental failure.

But Everwood stretched the scene out, forcing you through Brown’s embarrassed agony as he tried to find words to talk to his own daughter about pornography. The scene dragged on, and Brown didn’t have a well-rehearsed speech to give his daughter. He stumbled with his words, he stopped and started, he didn’t get very far. Welcome to real parenting.

I wish he would have had a better answer for his daughter, would have taken a stronger stance about the exploitation that is the heart and soul of pornography. But I respect the honesty of showing what parenting is really like. How would you explain pornography to your 8-year-old? Would you? Or would you avoid the issue like so many do. Skeletons in the closet, or buried at the bottom of the drawer, as the case may be.

Who says TV is entirely stupid?

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