Thursday, May 25, 2006

TV Timebombs: the emotional battlefield of ER

Who knew watching the television could be such an emotional minefield. I don’t mean an accidental channel surf passed Steel Magnolias, although it does make me cry every time, or even a flip past the news, with all it’s death, depression, and destruction. I’m talking about the programs that are much more mainstream; the most dangerous ones are the ones that hit you unexpected.

The latest installment of “your life is fodder for prime time’s sensational heart wrencher” was last Thursday’s ER. My husband was gone for a month of pre-deployment work-up training and I was about to treat myself to an early night when it came on. My finger was on the off-button, but I just hadn’t quite pulled the trigger yet, when a young female doctor, still in her pajamas despite the midday light pouring though the shutters, is crying. Still unawares, I figure her boyfriend left her for a man or she’s pregnant and hasn’t told the father yet, or some other trite trauma. And then, just as I raise the remote to turn off the ‘drama’ in my life, whuh, a punch to the gut. Two men in full-on dress blues, sparkly gold buttons and spit-shined shoes, asking for Mrs. X to tell her of her husband’s untimely expiration. Just like that, there it was, for the pre-bed time entertainment of millions, is my worst nightmare. Cut to next scene – her handsome young doctor husband is cruising around in the back of a truck, donning his deserts, flack jacket, Kevlar, all the right goods, when his convoy found a buried blast of scrap-metal death.

One person’s entertainment is another person’s emotional minefield.

I have no doubt that there have been many storylines that have made me laugh, or cry, that I turned off, and tucked myself in to, falling right asleep feeling tired and entertained. Take Steel Magnolia’s – I love the movie - but I bet there is a mom out there that can’t stand to look at the cover of the movie, with it’s singly white magnolia stem, because it reminds her of the daughter she lost. I can’t blame anyone for making entertainment out of my deepest fears, out of our troops’ trials and tribulations, hey, I even commend the industry for reminding the public that there is a war going on. But just this once I wanted someone to realize that this is my life, those are my deepest darkest secret fears, and you got to warn a girl before you blitz those images of bursting roadside bombs and pools of our men’s blood.


At October 24, 2006, Anonymous ER Fan said...

I also saw that ER ep. I was more angry at the show for killing off a good character than weepy at his loss. As I watched it, I wondered why the show chose to kill Gallant. Did they just run out of story for his character or were they trying to make a larger political point? Whatever the reason, they did kill Gallant, and I understand your reaction. Around Christmas time when Steel Magnolia's came out, one of my aunts thought that the best way to take my mother's mind off of the anniversary of her first born daughter's death would be...taking her to see Steel Magnolias. Luckily, my mother had read a review, declined the invitation and wasn't sucker punched the way you were with Gallant's death. (After getting to know my aunt better, I suspect that she was aware of the movie's plotline and wanted to cause drama)

It is amazing how fictional deaths can cause such a visceral reaction, as if it were real. I've found that these TV shows and movies can sometimes force out tightly-tucked away grief better than looking at old pictures or letters. Maybe it is the emotional distance.

I'm not sure if you've seen the new season of ER, but John Stamos plays a Gulf War vet/paramedic/resident or med student(I forget which one) who is going to make a play for Neela, Gallant's widow. The character is "complicated" and has some issues with impulse control(likes to beat people up). I just thought you might want to know about the new character and the plans for Neela.

I really hope your husband comes home safe and sound, and you and your family are OK. I appreciate the hardships that you deal on a daily basis so that we all remain free. BTW, I can't get my husband interested in Gilmore Girls either.


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