Monday, July 11, 2011

Miscarriage and the Movies

Have you ever noticed how books, movies, and the collective zeitgeist deal with miscarriage? It's like AIDS back in 1981. So many misconceptions are proliferated as facts. Let's take a look at some of the top offenders:

1. Downton Abbey - I love this British TV show set in pre-WWI England. It's such an awesome show, yet they had to insert a stupid scene that ran like a bad soap opera plot twist. Lady of the house has all daughters, she gets pregnant, they are hoping it's a male heir, a maid gets jealous, she doesn't help the lady out of the bathtub, lady slips and falls, and ... miscarriage. This is so completely ridiculous. What we know from studies is that miscarriages are caused by a range of factors that DO NOT include slipping 12 inches. Maybe you'd pull a hamstring. Whatever.

2. The Help - A fantastic book. Really, I look forward to the movie. But why is the woman who has repeat miscarriages also the socially inept, slutty blonde who locks herself in the bathroom? The woman who has miscarriages is never portrayed as the put-together high achiever. This is bigotry. This is the definition of being unaware.

3. The Hunger Games - Another fabulous book. In book two, they concoct a fake pregnancy for main character Katniss. When she isn't preggo months later, they say she miscarried due to stress. This answer is given and accepted time and time again as a reason for miscarriage. Studies have shown that the number of miscarriages HAVE NOT gone up during wars and other severely stressful times. Miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities and other problems in the body. In my mind, the generic cause of "stress" is a veiled attempt to blame the woman for the miscarriage.

4. Gone with the Wind - She falls down the staircase and has a miscarriage? Maaaaaybe this is possible. If you're severely injured, which she did not appear to be in her giant, plush robe. I've never heard of a real miscarriage happening this way.

How do we dispel these misconceptions? Will miscarriage always be a dirty word, signifying some misdeed on the part of the woman? We have so much awareness for other issues. I think it's time for the myths about infertility and miscarriage to go the way of the black and white TV.

Anyone thinking of a book or movie to add?


  1. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I totally agree with you. Especially the stress one! I mean, PLEASE... pfft... no way. I bit people's heads off in multiple different occasions for even suggesting that... idiots. Yeah, 'cuz it was totally stress and not my many many complications and medical conditions. Right.

  2. I can't think of any either right now but what I hate when I do encounter miscarriage in a movie or book it's always a super fantastically quick recovery and by dinner people are happy and looking brightly forward. Really? A delicious pot roast makes it all better? Hardly.

  3. Desperate Housewives comes to mind, way back in the first or second season when Gabby lost her baby by falling down some stairs. But at least they actually depicted her as grieving (although not nearly long enough as would be realistic) and needing help to get past it.

  4. (Been lurking for a couple weeks now, love your blog..)

    It isn't classic literature or anything, but the TV show 'Rescue Me' came to mind. The pregnant character lifts a turkey in the grocery store and then has a miscarriage. It was probably 5 or 6 years ago that I saw the episode, but it made me paranoid about turkeys during my (brief) pregnancy.

  5. I recently found your blog doing a Google search about miscarriage and I cannot thank you enough for this! It has made me smile and laugh despite heartache because only someone else who has been there knows what it is like. It is difficult but I have decided to be very open about my loss to help dispel such misconceptions.

  6. Welcome friends! I agree. Being open and honest is a good way to dispel misconceptions. It's not for the faint of heart though, considering how ignorant people can be.

  7. How about the Sex in the City where Charolette has a miscarriage and it's all over in 1 day? She is sitting there all in a white bed and I just thought what a mess waiting to happen. Then she goes to a baby shower!

    1. Oh my word, the LAST thing I would've been able to do would be to go to a baby shower. After I miscarried last May, I couldn't even see pregnant women on TV. I flat out stopped watching How I Met Your Mother and In Plain Sight because main characters were pregnant.

  8. I love that you're making these points- they are valid and need to be made, but I had a different perspective on your example from The Help. The way I read it was that she had been having all of these miscarriages and they'd been pushing her deeper into her isolation. Yes, she was a socially inept person to begin with and you make a great point there, but I interpreted it such that her miscarriages (which she was suffering silently and alone, without any help or support from anyone, including her husband) were causing her so much more pain and further separating her from society. She was such a sympathetic character, so fragile and vulnerable, I thought her personality in the book was a metaphor for how alone and damaged we can feel after miscarriages. Just a different take.

  9. Hi Jenny,
    I see your point. She was one of the nicer ones too, yet isolated and lonely. I can see that for sure.

  10. To be fair to Gone With the Wind -- which I just finished reading last week -- she broke some ribs falling down the stairs and was delirious for days. I can believe that one.

  11. I was going to say exactly what Jean said...Desperate Housewives! Gabby falls, has an m/c, then later learns she is infertile because of "complications from the miscarriage." Suddenly, years later she has two daughters. Us infertiles would like to know what magic happened there to make her suddenly pop out a couple of kids!
    There was also an m/c in Ugly Betty, when her sister Hilda has an unexpected pregnancy and went in for her first u/s with her whole family only to see no heartbeat. She was devastated, but or course over it immediately. I happened to see this episode while huddled on the couch during my second m/c...I was more of a mess than the character!

  12. Grey's Anatomy. I don't want to ruin anything incase people aren't caught up on the show. I feel like they did a good job portraying some of the emotions a woman goes through over a long period of time. It's not one day to grieve and then life is ok again.

  13. Calling other women sluts just makes it okay for boys and men to call them sluts. Miss Celia was a decent human being who just happened to have sex before marriage. Calling someone a whore just makes you less of a lady. You're entitled to your opinion, but you've used a very narrow amount of examples and I think that you're presenting the assumption that the media has a bias toward miscarriage in a way that is not only inaccurate and uninformed, but also unfair.

    And to the poster above who mentioned Grey's--yes. That woman was a doctor held in high esteem in her career and had a happy personal life.

    The Help was merely highlighting the stupidity of a society that places blame on people who do "immoral" things. Miss Celia thought that she was being punished by some higher power because she wasn't born a lady and didn't hold herself to the same standard that the rich, prissy women she was surrounded by, when in reality it was a biological problem that she could not have controlled.