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!
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

I can't decide how to feel about Poppy because in some ways she reminds me of myself, which is probably sad. I mean, I would totally NOT date a 15 year old (ew) and whether or not she denies it, that's what she's doing...but I have like three friends my own age, because I was very very ill in my 20s and early 30s and had a lot of emotional/mental problems, and I'm just not in the same PLACE most people my age are. Shit, they just found out the cause of most of my physical probs in January.

(Which I'm fine with actually, but it bothers some other folks, and it makes online dating with men nearly impossible because men tend to search women younger than they are and there is absolutely nothing about 50+ year old men in general that interests me, nor anything about me that interests them. Everyone I've dated since I was 30 has always been 5-15 years younger than me.)

So I don't have a need to be treated as a teen, but being treated like a 40+ person would confuse the hell out of me and I'm very glad all I need to do to look my emotional age is dress the way I like to do and colour my hair. If I were stuck at 16 and not 26 it would be much harder. And I think it's pretty clear that Poppy wants to hang out with teenagers and act like one because for some reason (I doubt it's just parental cancer) she never hit the developmental milestones either.

So I don't think the women were mean to her. I think you're spot on about that.

But two things come to mind.

1) I am always dead embarrassed when people my age who knew me back then ask what I'm doing with my life, because even when I'm totally happy with that (which is rare) and don't want what they've got (kids, long-term marriage, house) I feel that they are going to judge me and that I have not accomplished much, and what I was constantly told as a gifted kid was that I should suck up the abuse now because I'd do so much better than those kids later in life, which...didn't happen. I don't make up wild stories in situations like that, but I'd be lying out my ass if I said I was never tempted, especially since I live in SF and go back to West Virginia once a decade, so it's unlikely I'd get caught ;)

2) We don't know at all how those women treated her in the past. There are girls I went to school with from whom the most innocuous question would totally put me on guard and defensive, because I successfully managed to get to a point in my life where I don't have to interact with them and therefore, if they have become nice people, I have no evidence of it. While this gives me some small amount of perspective, the fact remains that I have lots of memories of these people and absolutely none of them are good. If Julie Thomas (head of what I called "The Bitch Brigade" in middle school) were to ask me a question like that, my tip of tongue response would be "None of your fucking business" even if she was clearly trying to be nice, because oh HELL no, Julie Thomas. (Of course, I also do not go to high school reunions where this is likely to happen!) Seanan McGuire and I had a conversation once about how weird it is when people who were mean to you--really mean--in school try to act like none of it happened and sometimes don't even seem to remember that it happened--she has had people who shoved her in lockers, stole her things, &c refer to "all the good times we had back then" with an absolute lack of irony because they don't remember that they were total shits at 16 and that they were specifically shitty to her. I have that experience occasionally when I visit people in West Virginia too, and I just don't get it. (Seanan's lived here all her life, so it happens to her more often, sadly.) I mean, most people are total shits at 16 to someone. But at the same time if I ran into someone that I had been consistently mean to for whatever reason my first thought would be either to lead with an apology or just not talk to them!

I don't think we're expected to think Poppy is better than other people. But then I don't find many characters on the Big C especially admirable--I watch for Gabourey Sidibe and now Boyd Holbrook, and the fact that Gabourey Sidibe is paired with a white male supermodel turned actor in what's probably the sweetest and most endearing relationship on the show is what keeps me watching.

I feel sorry for Sean, because he can't help being bipolar and most people with bipolar illness that tends to mania do not like losing their abnormally huge emotional range even when it's a problem for everyone around them, so it's hard to keep them on drugs. Depressive people like not being depressed, but hypomania is not something anyone wants to give up. I pretty much loathe Rebecca especially knowing that Sean is taking this so hard and is off drugs and all for just leaving. Though I also understand it because I would not want to marry Sean.

tl;dr = Poppy makes me nervous because she is annoying, and I relate to her more than is comfortable, because it makes me wonder if I'm annoying and I never want to come off pathetic, and I watch this show for Andrea and Myk.
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

Yeah, exactly. I liked that ep but it choked me up a bit because of my own past experiences. I do think that is an important thing about the show, the fact that they seem centred on the idea that if you try, sincerely, to connect in a helpful way, that's better than not trying, even if you get it wrong.

I am all about the Andrea/Myk. Both because I love the characters as characters and they seem to have a healthy relationship despite its fits and starts which is natural due to their age, and also because the writers are willing to show us someone who looks like Boyd Holbrook sincerely desiring and loving someone who looks like Gabourey Sidibe (who is beautiful, but many people in our society would never admit it) without making it fetishistic and gross and treating it as weird.


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