I don't know if anybody else even watches the show The Big C, but it's on after Weeds, so I do. It's not a big favorite, but last night I was a little weirded out by something in an ep, and it makes me wonder how I was supposed to have reacted to it.

The show stars Laura Linney as a woman who has terminal cancer. Last night’s ep involved a high school reunion. Spoilers for the ep within, but you probably

Last week they added an annoying character named Poppy. Adam, the 15-year-old son, met her on a website for kids whose parents had cancer. Poppy turned out to be around 40, but she acts like a teenager. In this ep she brought Adam to her high school reunion, which she wants to go to because people used to make fun of her and she wants to show them she’s not a loser.

She meets a couple of women who remind her of the weird things she was known for in high school. They ask what she does now. Poppy freezes. Adam steps in and tells them Poppy is a documentary filmmaker, then somehow manages to convince them he's Poppy's 20-something boyfriend who also has a fabulous career. Poppy makes a nasty comment about the other women giving hand-jobs to the entire football team in high school and then they split.

My question was…was I supposed to cheer Poppy on for telling off these women? Was I supposed to see the other women as bitchy? Because they didn’t seem mean to her.

Or am I just assuming I’m supposed to feel that way because it’s a cliché that the weird person is always the hero and the “normal” people are always horrible. Like Poppy is supposed to be better than these other women both in high school (because she wore a Sherlock Holmes hat and a cape) and now (because she’s 40 and gloms onto 15-year-old boys as a bff).

I was I just supposed to see her as a kind of sad woman who didn’t gain anything by this? Because if that’s the case, I like it more. The series in general does have a pattern of showing that being happy and having emotionally healthy relationships requires a give and take. It has several characters who are high-maintenance in such a way that everything has to be about them—like Poppy with her need to be treated like a teenager. Cathy’s brother Sean and her friend Rebecca seem very much characterized like that and it makes them sad and lonely too. Cathy’s husband was a bit like that in the first season, with I think the implication that he’d started taking Cathy for granted and being a baby over his own needs. But after finding out about the cancer he threw himself into being there for his wife and it made him more likeable—being self-centered was never a fundamental part of his personality like it is for Sean, Rebecca and Poppy.

So I feel like I’ve got evidence for the reading that Poppy is supposed to mirror Sean and Rebecca who can’t ever be there for someone else. Or even that this is the central idea of the show, that caring for another person is necessary to feeling cared about yourself. I’m a lot more interested in the show when I think of it as showing that contrast, where on one side people do nice things for others and feel closer for it, and on the other side there are these people always demanding more attention and unable to give it to others and feeling isolated and sad because of it.

No idea if I’m on track with what the show is trying to do, but it’s the first time it ever made me think about the show at all after it was over!
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From: [identity profile] ava-jamison.livejournal.com


This is relevant to my interests! I don't watch the Big C but what you're saying here relates, maybe, to a lot of what I've been reading lately re: a family member's addiction problem.

Addiction may create narcissism or it may be that narcissism comes first, but whichever way, some theories say that people who are only about themselves are that way because they are missing something internal that allows them to feel alright with themselves. That they are searching for this missing esteem from others, but because they can't or don't internalize it and can only focus on themselves and their need, the thing they are seeking is elusive and the cycle continues.

Whereas those who are able to be there for others are able to do that because they aren't seeking to have their inner emotional needs met by exterior means. (Which doesn't work anyway, and dooms the seeker.)

That's an interesting contrast in the show's narrative, and I agree it's most interesting if the series is showing that she's a sad woman who doesn't gain anything by her preoccupation with herself. It's also interesting to me that they showed one character overcoming his self-absorption to focus on another, which then makes him more likable by the viewer and presumably by other characters--something he was missing out on when he was needier.

It's like they are trying to get something that is not attainable and only get what they stop looking for it from sources that can't give it to them anyway. Or something!
ext_6866: (Hmmmm..)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


That's interesting! I found it was really hard to put into words what I was talking about seeing on the show (and also I was writing this pretty late!) but yeah, that seems like the idea. Maybe when the show started it was an obvious conflict to have somebody with cancer who isn't usually the person that gets focused on--her brother is usually the one people are worried about, for instance. But there was this whole storyline where her brother and her friend were going to have a baby, and then they had a miscarriage, and they had this elaborate funeral that people mistakenly thought was for Cathy. And they wound up splitting up because both of them wanted to be taken care of and neither could take care of the other.

So it seemed like coming off that the show did seem to be saying something about how these selfish characters were pretty isolated. Like there's a difference between them and the regular characters who are sometimes selfish and sometimes not. Like the whole first season Cathy kept her cancer a secret from most people and was very focused on herself, but that was more of a phase.

What you say here about trying to get the needs met externally and it creating a cycle definitely seemed like what was going on, even with this character who just appeared. Not only was she oversensitive about what her classmates thought of her, she rejected their compliments. And she still kept the teenager running around doing things for her (and cutting herself, which he noticed). Meanwhile Cathy and her friend who also had cancer were going through this give and take thing where he, who had been nice to her when she was angry and lashing out, was now angry and lashing out and she was helping him.

From: [identity profile] strangemuses.livejournal.com


Given what I've seen of this show, I expect that the takeaway message was that this woman is just a pathetic, isolated adult who has not grown up or grown past the indignities she suffered as a teen. She is trapped in her own past and lashing out over events that are no longer relevant. This show is good at highlighting human foibles and eccentricities without overtly passing good/bad judgments. Again, from what I've seen, it tends to leave the judgments up to the viewers.

I need to get Showtime again so that I can catch up with Weeds. Like you, I ended up watching The Big C because it was on after Weeds. I doubt I would have watched The Big C otherwise. I found the first season to be a bit too skewed towards humor, but I expected that the show was using humor to get the audience to get vested in the character of Cathy and admire her plucky, quirky optimism. That would make it so much worse when her cancer progresses. I lost touch with the show last year when I dropped Showtime.
ext_6866: (Default)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


This season does feel different, probably because in the first season Cathy was hiding her condition. So far her cancer hasn't progressed much. I actually wonder how they're planning to deal with it when it does, because she's now still in the stage where she's completely healthy but knows she's sick. Even the trial she's in doesn't seem to have bad side effects. But they're still only in fall.
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