America has less than a week to go before GA comes back on. The PR machine has ramped up and so have the fans. There’s lots of debate about this and that, dissecting of every little word, tweet or promo from the cast. Shonda Rhimes, you are a genius!
But I’d like to talk about how some of the story lines in GA reflect my experience of life and how it affects me when that particular storyline is debated.
I don’t know how they did it but the writers/creators/actors of GA’s lesbian couple Calliope Torres and Arizona Robbins have beautifully captured the struggle faced both by the individuals and the couple, of coming back after trauma. For the sake of TV drama, this trauma falls in the shape of a plane crash, an amputated leg and infidelity. Don’t forget, this couple has already worked through a split, an unexpected pregnancy and a near fatal car crash.
In GA world, Arizona boarded a plane she wasn’t supposed to be on, was badly injured, eventually lost the father of her child, nearly died and lost her leg. Her focus on her limb, setting up the whole breach of trust/betrayal storyline is interesting. As a doctor she would know the leg had to go. As a viewer I find it hard to work out why she wasn’t able to rationalise the leg = death, no leg = life equation. But the God of this show is Shonda Rhimes so we shall leave that aside for now.
Meanwhile, her wife Calliope had to adjust to seeing her hitherto strong, independent, sexual woman reduced to tubes, incapacity, mentally and physically broken. She had to make the choice to cut the leg to save her dying wife – a no brainer – knowing this would cause distress to both Arizona and their relationship. Then she had to live with a person who felt less than whole, unlovable, angry, resentful, incapacitated, and quietly accept that crap while fielding endless ‘how’s Arizona?’ questions. Still working. Still parenting. Still trying to be a person. Still having to make decisions. Still trying to keep the ‘house’ running. While her wife sits in a chair wanting her there; hating her for being there; hating her for needing her there.
It’s an impossible position. You just can’t be the person that your person wants you to be while keeping everything else going.
If this is all starting to sound a bit personal, it is. While the trauma is not quite as dramatic as a lost leg/plane crash, the resulting effects on the relationship are very similar to real lives – like mine.
My wife has a chronic illness. And currently that’s manifested as a confronting, incapacitating arm infection. It required 12 days in hospital, three surgeries and an open wound that is still weeks away from being closed. I tweeted a lot while sitting at her bedside in hospital while she slept. It kept me distracted.
But it also made me realise there are a lot of people who don’t have much life experience talking about fictional characters and their story lines as if a)they were real and b)they knew what was going on.
A lot of them were judgemental, harsh, critical of the storyline, the actors, the creator.
I get that. When you are younger things are more black and white. Frankly, if you don’t have any trauma in your life – lucky you! But as life experience touches you, black and white becomes more challenging to maintain.
The storyline that some say is ‘unreal’ is very real to me. Sure, not the leg drama or the cheating drama – that is TV stuff. No, it is the two people trying to work out how to be in this new world of incapacity, changed roles, pain.
Relationships aren’t always happy. We are not always healthy or unstressed. Until you have to get help from your lover to wipe your ass, comb your hair or help shower you, you can’t really know the things that you have to give up and get over in a love/marriage relationship. If you haven’t had to re-imagine your relationship because you’ve had to help your partner in this way, then maybe consider before judging.
Watching GA takes me out of my real life. That is what it is there for and in the end, it’s just a story. But it does sooth me to see some of my experiences reflected in characters on screen. It makes me feel less alone.
But again this pre-season interview round has fans debating the people as opposed to the characters. Shonda has a boyfriend – why shouldn’t she? Capshaw doesn’t like infidelity – well der, she’s been married for nearly ten years.
I’m not saying fans can’t have an opinion. I enjoy watching and participating in the banter on my twitter feed.
What I’m suggesting is that TV drama is supposed to be a ‘hyper-real’ representation of life so we watch it. The agenda of the writers, actors and creators is to entertain and provoke – it’s art. That we are debating about it means they are doing their job, so let’s talk about that instead of the real people behind the show.
Wishing you all the happiness the Universe can bring