Stillbirth > ER episode: media representation
In Spring 2004, an email "warning" went out to many bereavement lists and sites in the U.S. The television drama "E.R." was airing a show about stillbirth. One of the main characters and his partner were going to be shown as they discovered their child's death, went through birth, saw the beginnings of the grief impact on a family.
Some real life parents refused to watch. Some parents felt it would be too hard to re-live things in this way. Others figured that the tv media couldn't get the represenation right anyway, so why bother investing any time or energy into hoping for a "voice" in mass media.
Some real life parents were ready to see what the producers, director, and writers of E.R. were going to do. How would E.R. rate on "getting it right" and/or would they follow through with support information for viewers who might be affected by watching?
I can tell you that I don't have a tv. Simply can't stand anything it puts out. But I do moderate a discussion group online, and the discussion jumped two fold the day of the show. Anticipation was high. And feedback was lengthy after the episode aired.
Some felt the representation was right-on -- but folks were cynical as to whether or not there'd be any follow up next week, next month, next year as these characters went on in their story lines.
Some felt it was mostly done well. Complaints rolled in about one character's father (the supposedly bereaved grandfather) saying something like, "You can have more." Because yes, of course, we all know that a grandfather would completely discount his grandchild who is dead in the next room and just say something about how the kids should hurry up and have more (I write this with much cynical laughter and disgust). Though this is a dis-service to the grandparent who grieves not only for their dead grandchild, but their bereaved child -- I do have to say that at least the E.R. writers thought to include something off the "Dumb Things Said" list. Because it is true that many parents hear this kind of comment from friends or family.
Whatever our reactions -- whatever you thought and felt -- one of our online dad's pointed out that a great way to encourage more & better media representation is to simply voice our opinions directly to the producers, directors, creators, etc. And with that thought in mind, he found the following information for us. Use it well!!!
R. Scott Gemmill