Thursday, March 7, 2013

Call the Midwife

Another series that you should get on watching already. This is a BBC series, based on a series of memoirs by Jennifer Worth, about her experiences working as a midwife in the 1950s in London's very poor East End. The main character comes from a fairly well-off family, and has never been exposed to such poverty or conditions before. What I love about her though, is that while she may occasionally express her horror or dismay or ignorance/naivety about the lives of her patients; when it's pointed out to her that her privilege is showing, or that she needs to open her mind, she does just that. She's not perfect, but she tries to learn from her mistakes.
Jenny Lee, as she's called in the series, works for a nursing convent, along with 3 other midwives: Chummy (who is kind of socially awkward and clumsy, comes from a wealthy and prominent family), Trixie (rather a partier), and Cynthia (quiet and probably the most mature). With all their differences, and being fairly young and fairly new to practice; they are all competent and caring midwives. They board at the convent, and so in addition to the series focusing on the midwives and mothers, you also have the nuns. Although there are more nuns in the convent that we see sporadically, only 4 are involved in the clinic. It's a rare female-centered and female-oriented cast and plot. There are a few recurring male characters who are just as three-dimensional as the women, but the focus is always on the midwives. In Great Britain, it was one of the most widely watched shows in recent history. Take that studios that talk about how "women's films" are risky or don't bring in viewers (and then every time there is a huge hit starring a woman, their minds are blown, but it's just a fluke anyway, so they'll just go right back to catering to men ages 18-34).
Because of the poverty, and because of the unavailability/stigma of birth control at the time, the cases are often sobering. The first episode has a woman who began having children when she was 14, and was pregnant with her 25th child. And rant hat on, she is from Spain, her husband doesn't know Spanish, and she doesn't know English; it sounds like as sound as soon as she had one child, she was pregnant with another, so they've been married roughly 25-30 years or so. In all that time, her husband never bothered to learn Spanish or teach her English? Despite the fact that she can't communicate with anyone outside of her children? Ugh. Another case has a woman giving birth on the same day that her daughter gets married, or other moms who are giving birth in their 40s and having complications/feeling too old to be having children. However, all is not gloomy. There is a lot of humor, and the relationships between the women are comfortable and teasing. Season 1 just came out on DVD, and I think Season 2 is playing now on PBS.

4 stars out of 5

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