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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