Some weeks, finding a topic for this blog is challenging. Sometimes they come knocking at your door. Lindsay Lohan knocked via an Internet pop-up for her new movie Labor Pains, which is premiering on ABC Family. It’s the story of a young girl who’s struggling to raise her little sister after her parents die and while working in the cutthroat world of publishing.
Lindsay’s character, Thea, is threatened with firing so she does what any thinking woman in this tough economy would do: announces she’s pregnant with the boss’s baby! The problem is (get ready for the plot builder), she’s not actually pregnant. She’s lying to save her job. But, wait for it…the lying, conniving and unplanned pregnancy are all OK because she has dead parents, and she realizes she’s a better person as a pregnant woman than she was not pregnant. Whoa, Lindsay. Really?
Sure, there are so many more unsavory and ridiculous shows out there. This one bugs me though because the target audience is “family,” (presumably the pre-teen/teen crowd). Young men and women today are already among the most media-bombarded and ethically confused generation we’ve ever seen.
Labor Pains brings up issues around women’s employment rights, the erosion of feminism, justification of dishonesty and the fall back excuse of “female troubles” as a way of shirking responsibility. These are real issues for parents raising children today. I don’t know any mother who’d tell her daughter: “OK, honey, here’s what you do. If you screw up at work, don’t worry. You can always hook up with your boss and pretend you’re pregnant.” And what are we telling our sons? “Watch out. Women are dishonest and manipulative.” Seriously?
In The Encyclopedia of US Labor and Working Class History by Eric Arnesen, (New York: Routledge 2006) he reminds us that, “The most important issues relating to women in the paid work force today, such as sexual harassment, pay equity, pregnancy and family leave, were central concerns to working class feminists who first openly challenged the old system beginning in the 1950’s.” I know a lot of young women today think feminism is a dead subject no longer relevant to them. If the message we’re sending young adults today is the one advertised in “Labor Pains,” maybe they’d better take another look. We’re supposed to be evolving.
Thea declares she’s a “better person” pregnant than not. That’s cool. I honor the personal insight and growth that often comes with pregnancy. Knowing you’ll be raising a child soon is a real wake-up call. Women look at themselves, their lives and potential and realize there’s room for change and growth. Thea, however, is lying as a means of being a “better person.”
I’ve had countless patients who get pregnant when their lives are a mess because they think it will inspire them to clean it up. They think it will make a guy stay or make their family treat them better. Some get pregnant because they want someone to love them unconditionally and think a baby will do that for them. I’ve had patients say, “I won’t smoke (or drink, take drugs, eat Twinkies, etc.) when I’m pregnant. That’s the only way I’ll stop.”
What they’re essentially saying is their baby is responsible for them. It’s their baby’s job to clean up their life and bad habits, hook the man and love them. Really? Babies don’t usually come equipped for that job description. Babies actually count on their parents doing that for themselves before they’re born and to continue being “better people” for the duration of their childhood. It’s quite a shock when parents realize their tiny human being is totally dependant on them and a pretty big inconvenience too. Babies are delightful and inspiring but they’re also a major speed bump when it comes to employment, education, relationships, finances sleeping, and life.
Lindsay? Maybe you know something about being a young woman today; about hopes and dreams; about cleaning up messes and going on to be a better person. I’m sure this show has a warm and fuzzy ending where Thea has an epiphany. But really, is this the best way to package that? Help a sister out, girl.