Monday, February 9, 2009

The S(h)ame Old Thing

This is a guest post by Natalie

Natalie writes under mzbitca at What A crazy Random Happenstance.  She teachers college classes within Prison and runs a Rehab home for women with drug addictions.  Her writing is based on critiquing popular culture from a feminist perspective.

As previously stated, I love the show House, but man, are they dropping the ball with their female characters lately, and I mean BIG time.  I have previously posted on how I feel about Hadley's character arc (which REALLY hasn't improved), but now even Cuddy's character is being decimated and ridiculed.

Earlier I had posted about the episode revolving around Cuddy attempting to adopt a baby.  I said it then and I still say it now: that episode was disgusting in it's privilege and the one where she finally gets a baby was not much better.  They had a great chance to touch on bullying and lack of resources for teen girls but instead Cuddy got a baby and the teenage slut girl got taught by dying without any screen time involving sympathetic music (that's how you know you matter.). However, now that Cuddy has succeeded in fulfilling her womanly duty by somehow getting her hands on a baby, everyone knows what comes next....SHAME THE WORKING MOTHER!

In "Painless" the privilege meme is still going strong.  Cuddy can't handle her job and her baby because her nanny called off!!!!!!!  However, her case worker takes two steps around her house and tells her she is fine because she has money and cares if her house is clean so is therefore “better” than the other foster moms he sees. Way to forward the stereotype that foster parents are just after the gov’t check and don’t care about the kids at all and ignore the fact that most of them don’t have nearly as much money and resources as Cuddy. Of course, this is not enough for Cuddy because she has her standards, which are higher than those "other" foster mothers. Wilson yells at Cuddy that she does not have to do it alone and that she should have help and that he doesn’t understand why “women make everything harder on themselves.”  Maybe because society views a man that uses a sitter so he can work as a hero and a woman who uses daycare as a failure but nah, it’s probably just our simple female minds. 

By the time "Big Baby" aired though, the writers were no longer content to just have Cuddy make herself feel guilty, they wanted others to judge her as well. Cuddy has decided to stay home to be with her new baby and Cameron is taking over her job for the time being.  Unfortunately, Cuddy is having trouble bonding with her baby and is beating herself up over it.  Again, this is a really good angle that could have been handled appropriately and she could have gotten great support.  Instead she has Wilson worried she's going to hurt the baby and the horrified look that Cameron gives her when she finds out.  But don't worry, it all turns out okay when she touches her baby and she stops crying.  I also loved how a mother’s frustration at bonding with an infant or dealing with a crying infant must mean she does not love the child.  I do not have children but I remember my mother’s friend once saying about her son “I love him to death but there are days when I swear I could throw him through the window and not think twice about it.”  Obviously she didn’t mean it literally but it was a way to show that just because a child is yours doesn’t mean it’s easy or that your love for them is always the emotion that wins out.  I know there were days when I was growing up that, even though my mother loved me, she wasn’t too sad when I left the house to go out with my friends.  Wanting relief and experiencing frustration are normal things and to pretend otherwise is ridiculous.

Of course, since apparently the writers have lost any ability to write a well-balanced and nuanced character arc, now Cuddy is almost physically incapacitated at work because she loves her baby SOOOOOO MUCH (remember ladies, you don't really love your baby unless you stay at home).   She acts like an idiot; blames House because she created a monster only she can handle, and watches her baby on the computer instead of doing her job.

I just don't understand what is so hard or confusing about presenting a single mother (who has way more resources than most) who still works full time and has a child and manages to feel fulfilled.  I am okay with the occasional guilt story line as raising a child alone is hard but that doesn't mean it's impossible or only a "bad" mother will do it.  Last season, when the Mormon guy (sorry don't remember names) was discovered to be a single dad it never seemed to be a big deal except for the one time he had to leave work early.  He didn't feel guilty for trying to make money to support his child. He was a good dad doing his best to survive.  However, Cuddy is a single woman, who adopted a child, without a man in her life at all (unless you count House), which is the trifecta for the game called "shame a woman for what we would praise a man for doing"


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