The Cuckoldry of a New Era: TV husbands and abortion

On the surface, two shows that I have recently watched (and reviewed on this blog) wouldn't seem to have much in common. The Walking Dead is a modern fictional dystopia about a rugged band of travelers trying to outlast a zombie apocalypse. Call the Midwife is the memoir of a young midwife living and working in a poor London neighborhood in the 1950s. They are very different. But I just can't get over their one glaring similarity.

In both shows, a married woman finds herself unexpectedly and inconveniently pregnant. And in both shows her husband sits quietly by, opinion-less, as she decides whether or not to kill their baby.

What. The. Heck?

And the more I looked into it, the more I realized how pervasive it is on television shows throughout the years. If a married woman on TV has had an abortion, or even considered one, you can bet her husband didn't have an opinion about it. All the way back to the very first TV abortion on Maude, through Dawson's mom's considered abortion on Dawson's Creek, to Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, it's always the same. A husband mustn't, of course, suggest or demand that his wife get an abortion -- that would be monstrous. But neither can he tell her she shouldn't have one.

Only on Grey's Anatomy does the husband even venture to voice his preference for his wife NOT killing their baby. But in the end he drives her to the clinic like a good little husband.

On The Walking Dead, our manly hero Rick, when he finds out that his wife has taken abortion pills (which she then made herself throw up) asks her, "Did you really think I'd make you have a baby you didn't want?" C'mon Rick, really? That's what you've got? You who are going to lead your band of misfits against the zombie hordes and save humanity? But your wife can kill YOUR baby if she wants to? Really?

And it's even worse on Call the Midwife. The pathetic, utterly emasculated husband featured on that show watches silently as his wife attempts to kill their baby over and over again by scalding hot baths and bottles of liquor, and even gets sent off to buy knitting needles, before he takes the kids out for the day so his wife can have his child, and nearly herself, killed in a kitchen table abortion. And he never puts up a fight for either one of them.

It seems awfully like the cuckolds featured in an earlier era of entertainment, so often the butt of jokes in literature and on the stage. Cuckolds were usually humorous, pathetic characters because they either didn't know about or were powerless to stop their wives' adulterous relationships. How much more pathetic are the male characters of today, who are powerless to stop their wives from killing their children in the name of choice or convenience, powerless even to voice an opinion on the matter.

Obviously it all comes of a clear agenda on the part of screenwriters. They wish us all to believe that having a baby is a WOMAN'S choice, and that men, even husbands, better butt out. But more than empowering the wives, these plots just emasculate the husbands. Men who should be portrayed as the comforters of their wives and the protectors of their children are instead just passive observers, of no comfort or protection to anyone.

And what a sad commentary that no one seems to care. Or even notice. So here is me caring. Here is me saying: Attention husbands of television! You need not sit idly by while your wives have (or more often, almost have) abortions. No! You can say things like: It will be okay. Or, We'll get through this. Or, I love you and I don't want you to kill our baby. Seriously, try it. It just might work.

And Rick, I'm disappointed in you, man. It wasn't like you. If you ever find yourself a new, non-zombie wife, I expect you to do better. A lot better. Now, get back out there and kill some zombies. That is all.