Well. It’s definitely November sweeps time.
In last night’s episode of How I Met Your Mother, Robin tried desperately to talk Marshall and Lily out of moving to Long Island, and Barney and Ted considered adopting a baby as “bro-parents” after deciding they are sick of trying to find happiness with women.
The episode was, in general, funny, sweet and adorable. And then the last 30 seconds went full-on watercooler drama.
Robin is pregnant. And the viewers pick their jaws up off the floor and explode. Who’s the father?? Is it Barney’s? Will she keep the baby? (Of course she will, this is network TV, and a sitcom at that).
And it’s that third question that bothers me. As we’ve only seen two words of this storyline (the “I”m pregnant” declaration that ended the episode), it’s far too early to judge whether it’s a “good” plotline or just soap opera level drama. But I will be beyond shocked if How I Met Your Mother goes anywhere near the route of the dreaded a-word.
It’s pretty obvious that pregnancy scares (and actual pregnancies) are drama-fodder on most TV shows. I don’t want as much television as I used to, but How I Met Your Mother is actually the only recent show I can think of that has shown a planned pregnancy between two characters and explored all the stress and drama that goes along with that, instead of looking for plot twist shock!pregnancies, usually after someone has cheated on their partner (because infidelity, as everyone knows, increases the chances of TV pregnancy by approximately 1000%). It’s all Quinn from Glee (pregnant cheerleader! President of the celibacy club!) or Amy on Doctor Who (kidnapped for a baby she didn’t even know she was having!). Yet although shows will jump at the chance for surprise!pregnancy drama, and will jump through a million hoops to avoid actually showing the characters dealing with a baby (adoption! Childhood-long kidnapping! Ending up in another dimension where time moves at different speeds!), they never seem to want to even touch on the possibility of abortion. If a show does mention it, no character will actually go through with it.
The reason why is fairly obvious, if also depressing: there would be public outcry. It would be too “controversial.” Too horrible for television, even though 30% of women in the U.S. will have had an abortion by the time they are 45. 40% of all U.S. pregnancies end in abortion. But this reality cannot appear on TV, because too many vocal people are against it.
I’m not saying that Barney and Robin should choose to have an abortion, or that they would even if the laws of television allowed them to do so, although it’s something that Robin’s character is likely to consider. But it seems unfortunate to me that TV shows are willing to use this very real fear/issue for women to create drama and boost their ratings, but they are unwilling to look at all the realistic thoughts and options that women face after that initial discovery.