The Austen Test

A couple days before my wedding (wow, I got married, that is still sinking in), my mom, my dad, Harold and I were talking about Call The Midwife. Actually, my mom and I were talking about what a great show it is, while Harold and my dad admitted that there was a little too much blood and screaming for them. This is extra hilarious because Harold is a horror writer, and I’m usually pretty upset by seeing blood on TV. A few weeks ago, we tried to watch Pet Cemetary but I got too scared that Tasha Yar was going to get killed so he shut it off.

The reason I like Call The Midwife is that all the blood and screaming leads to high drama and cutie little babies.  Also, it’s an entire show about women. I mentioned the Bechdel Test to my dad who was sort of confused by the point of it, and I tried to explain that it’s a way to note and view female characters in media, to go from I kinda feel like there aren’t a lot of women in mainstream entertainment to quantifying exactly how few named, speaking women exist in typical movies. But if there were some kind of reverse Bechdel Test, that is, if you watched Call the Midwife and watched expectantly for two named men having a conversation that isn’t about a woman, well, it would be a long wait.

This is a show about female friendships, with arcs about friendship and motherhood. Even the romantic storylines, like Chummy and Noakes, the conflicts are Chummy’s internal ones, about her overbearing mother and her midwifery career, not silly misunderstandings and dramatic reconciliations. Obviously Chummy is the best character of all, although for some reason, Harold doesn’t enjoy the part about Constable Noakes running up and down the stairs in Poplar to pass his physical to go abroad with his wife. I don’t know why, I mean, in one of the rare storylines where a man’s character development is central and there’s no blood or screaming at all.

I recently got Jennifer Worth’s memoir out of the library for a little more cuteness and drama. (I haven’t found a smooth way to watch American movies or TV here in Yangzhou, but it takes about five minutes on the VPN to get my library books loaded on my Kindle, so I haven’t been terribly motivated to try. I’d like to watch a little Call The Midwife or Doctor Who, but having all the free books North Carolina will give me is pretty sweet, too.) If you found the TV show squicky, you should skip the memoir too, because she describes some of the births she attended in detail. But I didn’t find that gross, and I really liked the accounts of Poplar life.

In the opening to her memoir, Worth explains the world she’s experiencing and writing about:

So, like Jane Austen, who in all her writing never recorded a conversation between two men alone, because as a woman she could not know what exclusively male conversation would be like, I cannot record much about the men of Poplar, beyond superficial observation.
This entry was posted in Books, China, Yangzhou and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *