Where are all the freakin' infertile Hollywood writers? If 12.5% of the population is infertile, then shouldn't it somewhat follow that 12.5% of the writers and newscasters are also infertile? So why aren't they influencing what flits across my television set? Where are the movies that show the reality of fertility treatments? The television shows that don't reduce pregnancy loss to a 52 minute storyline that falls off the screen by the closing credits, never to be brought up again? Where are the news stories that discuss advances in treatments without the scary mood music welling up in the background?
There's a television show that used to be on in Israel called Florentene and the distributors have packaged the episodes to be shown at film festivals around the world--both Jewish and GLBT festivals. It was a groundbreaking television show that paved the way for gay characters to stop being tokenized and appear instead as just one piece of an ensemble cast. With homosexuality one piece of a three-dimesional character rather than the defining characteristic.
There was an Eytan Fox retrospective at the film festival last week so they showed the first six episodes. The show is set in the Florentene district of Tel Aviv (an artsy section of the city--think Rent crossed with Friends) and follows the lives of a bunch of twenty-somethings about two years after they left the army (army service in Israel is compulsory--about two years for women and three years for men. So you don't go to college until after service, and many people take a year off after the army). At the core of the show are three characters who went to high school together, all three still mourning their friend (and in one case, boyfriend) who died during army service.
I went to a discussion where Eytan Fox (and his partner, Gal Uchovsky) were discussing how they went about creating their television shows and films. They were never looking to "convince the convinced" but were instead trying to reach the greater population by, as Gal says, "telling stories that are very important to us, close to us, stories of our lives. There’s always something in the movie that is about us."
So where are the freakin' infertile writers who are putting a bit of themselves onto the screen, giving the outsider a greater understanding of what we're going through? That we're not psychotic baby stealers or type-A personalities demanding a child NOW! It's the difference between Florentene viewers getting an insider's perspective on coming out to your parents and the Friends viewers receiving infertility wrapped up in a laugh track.
Friends tackling infertilty: Phoebe will serve as a surrogate for her infertile brother! She can take a pregnancy test a day or two post transfer! And carry to term without complications! And have three healthy babies in the easiest labour ever! Hmmm...how many stirrup queens do you think Friends had on their writing staff?
When Florentene tackles homosexuality, they do it with subtle realism. The son who can't connect with his father after he is told that his medical discharge from the army makes him a "nobody." The turmoil of wanting to cling to who you were and wanting to embrace who you are. And, hands down, the best coming out scene of all time. It is Rabin's funeral and the son sets up a video camera on top of the television to capture his family's reaction. So as they are watching Rabin's granddaughter Noa give her famous speech about her grandfather ("Grandfather, you were, and still are, our hero. I want you know that in all I have ever done, I have always seen you before my eyes. Your esteem and love accompanied us in every step and on every path, and we lived in the light of your values. You never abandoned us, and now they have abandoned you, my eternal hero--cold and lonely--and I can do nothing to save you, you who are so wonderful.") he tells his father--every son's hero--that he is gay.
Homosexuality isn't presented in a neat box that we can leave the theater believing we understand. Instead, Fox gives the viewer a springboard to jump from as homosexuality is painted as a complicated, messy, wonderful element of this main character. He wasn't just presenting homosexuality to the convince the convinced--he was aiming at presenting homosexuality to the outsider without dumbing it down or reducing it. Fox takes the viewer as close as he possibly can to viewing in context.
I want the Eytan Fox of the infertility world to step up and not just convince the convinced, but present infertility as the complicated, messy, and...well...not so wonderful thing that it is. A regular thirty-something woman who works in advertising. And has crappy insurance. And a sister who gets pregnant at the drop of a hat and always put her foot in it. Who gets her beta results right before a big meeting and needs to pull it together to present (but has a boss with a heart-of-gold who covers for her even though this boss has never experienced infertility herself). Who sometimes fights with her husband because they're not on the same page. And who's conflicted about holiday gatherings--both drawn to the Christmas lights like a moth to flame and repelled by the constant baby-making questions from Aunt Margaret.
And on the other hand, she's also on the company softball team. And she goes on vacation. And she drinks sometimes a bit too much. And she never returns her library books on time. Her whole life isn't about infertility--it's just one enormous piece that sometimes overshadows the rest. But the rest is still there.
For that, I would pay for cable or follow the episodes through the film festival circuit. Hell, I would even start my own infertility film festival if there was anything else to put up on the screen.