Call the Midwife should have been perfect for me. It has everything I like about shows going for it: it’s old-timey, British, and on Netflix streaming. Plus THIS show has nuns (Anglican not Catholic, but in full habit!) and people having babies. I love nuns. I have babies ALL THE TIME. Like I said, perfect. And it was, for a while. Then it broke my heart.
The first episode is fabulous. We meet our heroine, Nurse Jenny Lee. (The show is based on her autobiographies of the same name.) We watch as she adjusts to life as a single gal in a convent full of nuns, and as a middle-class young lady who now lives and works in a neighborhood marked by poverty and struggle.
Her first patient is a mother expecting her twenty-fifth baby. The mother and father are portrayed as deeply in love even though she only speaks Spanish and he only speaks English. When the baby comes prematurely and is thought to be stillborn the parents and all the children are devastated. As of course they would be. But I was amazed at how well this family was portrayed.
I don’t remember the family ever being identified as Catholic, but the mom is Spanish, and their values are Catholic, so it seems like a reasonable assumption. And, shockingly, the show is totally okay with it all. The baby survives, because of the sheer force and stubborn confidence of his mother’s great love for him.
The nuns make only positive comments about the size of the family and the parents’ love for each other and their new baby. And Jenny learns that her assumptions about a family that big were wrong. She learns that the love in this family is big enough for all their children, big enough for a language barrier, big enough even to conquer death (Fulton Sheen, pray for us).
It was a surprising lesson for Jenny and must be a surprising lesson for many viewers, but it is True and Good and that shines through.
And that’s how they get ya.
When my husband was a young single Marine stuck in places like rural Virginia and middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma his favorite pastime was going to bars with a buddy and telling tall tales. He would tell people things like that his great grandfather had invented daylight savings time or that he was a decorated Coast Guard hero. Whatever crazy story he was telling, he would work into it that he has gone to Harvard. When the bar-goer would express doubts about his tale, he would pull out his Harvard ID and prove that he HAD in fact gone to Harvard. That part of the story proven, the people would then be inclined to believe the rest of the story too, no matter how unlikely.
Call the Midwife is trying to pull the same scam on us.
After proving in the first episode that a family that defies conventional expectations of what a family should look like could be happy and filled with love, the writers go on to show us all sorts of other families that defy our expectations for what a family is. Incest and bigamy, amongst other things, get the same treatment as our first big loving family. Homosexuality wasn’t featured in any of the episodes I saw, perhaps becuase that would make for an obvious agenda. Otherwise, really, I can’t imagine why it wasn’t.
At first, Jenny is shocked to learn that a brother and sister are living as husband and wife, or that a man is married to both of the women in a set of twins. Then, the nuns convince her that her preconceived notions are wrong, that she mustn’t be judgemental, and that the love of the parties involved is what’s important.
Even in the cases of teenage prostitution (in one case at the behest of the young woman’s father) and spousal abuse, we learn that we mustn’t be too hasty to judge and that there are reasons that women make even these choices.
Obviously, women in immoral circumstances deserve the best care that they can possibly receive. It is truly laudable that these nuns and nurses are there to help no matter what. But there’s an important difference between a show telling me that all people are worthy of our love and compassion and a show telling me that all behaviors and choices are equal.
Those two angles are so confused in this show that I watched it for longer than I should have. That and all the babies. And the hairdos.
In the East End of the ’50s, families tended to be large. Somewhere far away, scientists were working on a magic pill, rumored to make pregnancy a case of choice, not chance. . . .
Nora’s life was saved by doctors who asked no questions. She never conceived again. Free, reliable contraception came too late to help her. . . .
Speaking of coming too late to help, no mention is made of the fact that just weeks after she killed her baby and nearly killed herself, she had a new home and a new start with plenty of room for a baby. And she and her husband and her living children will be tortured by what she did for the rest of their lives. All these people who have devoted their lives to helping these women and babies, failed this woman and baby in the most grievous way imaginable.
Anyway, that was it for me. Here’s hoping that Jenny and Cynthia and Trixie find love and that Sister Bernadette does NOT. That they continue to nobly assist the women of the East End and quit all the moral relativism. But I won’t be there to see it. I guess I’m going to have to go back farther than the ’50s for my British entertainment from now on.
I certainly think this show can be watched by well-formed adults who know what they’re getting into. And it certainly is fun. But I’m not going to watch it anymore. And if you do choose to watch it, I would highly recommend skipping season 2, episode 5. Some things, once seen, cannot be unseen. And all the blood and gore of three seasons of The Walking Dead don’t haunt me like the drops of blood that fell from that kitchen table.
And, ummm, awkward transition much . . . but Catholic All Year has been nominated in two categories at The Homeschool Post’s Annual Awards!
If you are so inclined you can click on the links to vote once per day, per device for Catholic All Year as the Best NEW Homeschool Blog 2013, and/or the Best Current Events, Opinion, and/or Politics Blog 2013.
Some other bloggers from our neck of the woods are also nominated, including Jen from Conversion Diary as Best Nitty Gritty Homeschooler 2013, Chris from Campfires and Cleats as Best Special Needs Blog 2013 and Best Photos Blog 2013, Monique from Mountains of Grace also in Best New Homeschool Blog 2013, Jessica from Shower of Roses as Best Super Homeschooler Blog 2013, and Cari from Clan Donaldson as Funniest Homeschool Blog 2013.
Voting is open now through November 18th. Vote early, vote often!
And if you’re visiting for the first time from The Homeschool Post, here are a couple of links to prove that I do sometimes write about homeschooling: