Once, just once, it would be great if a TV crime drama could feature a woman in a recurring lead role who doesn’t either
a) eventually end up in a scene where a maniacal predator chains her up by the wrists in a dungeon or
b) accidentally get pregnant, sensibly determine that having a kid would alter her career trajectory for the worse, but abruptly cancel the abortion appointment after catching a glimpse of her glowing and fecund self in a mirror and cupping her magical abdomen with lily white hands to reel with wonder over the miracle of life.
The aforementioned aggravating phenomenon has blipped on the Spinster HQ radar again because of “Silk,” a recently aired Brit courtroom drama on PBS that adheres to most of the accepted rules for packaging compulsory pregnancy as female empowerment and selling it as entertainment.
“Silk’s” heroine, Martha, is a bewiggened barrister bucking for a big promotion in her cutthroat London law firm. In contrast to her foil — a womanizing, ethically challenged male rival — Martha is down-to-earth, overworked, and unimpeachably principled. Also, she’s an awesome barrister. Just when things couldn’t look worse, she relies purely on chutzpah and wits to win her tough cases. You go girl. But then, uh oh. Sure enough. Unbeknownst to Martha, one of her skeevy clients has been sneaking around her apartment nicking her hosiery (black stockings! I would have thought that in 2013, the only women still suffering those torture devices would be — well, nobody. And they say patriarchy is dead). The skeevy stalker sets the stage for some excellent TV lady-fear in an upcoming episode.
As an added plot device, the writers throw in an accidental pregnancy. As we have seen, rare is the TV lady of childbearing years who makes it to her series finale without getting knocked up; the contents of uteruses (and the genetic provenance of said contents) never fail to fascinate audiences. Thus we know that, from the minute Martha eyeballs the home pregnancy test, even though she will initially plan to have an abortion, it’s inevitable that instead she’ll wind up cupping the magical abdomen and keeping the fetus. The pregnancy device highlights Martha’s feminine vulnerability to her deranged predator, underscores her selfless feminine devotion to humankind, and sends a patriarchy-affirming message: abortion is the selfish choice.
Oh, and guess who the father is. That’s right. The womanizing, ethically challenged dude, who is currently sleeping with his hot blonde pupil.
My prediction for this series: violence will be visited upon poor pregnant Martha. I bet there’ll be one of those nailbiting bogeyman scenes — possibly in a dungeon with wrist chains — where the skeev leaps from the shadows and the Martha character gives the camera what it craves: a snootful of TV lady-fear. Suspenseful scrimmage will ensue. At some point Martha, her clothes ripped to reveal a tantalizing swatch of lingerie, will be down on the floor, bleeding from a photogenic cut on her forehead, making desperate, sobby, lady-fear noises, either scooching backward on her butt, or worming toward a weapon that’s just beyond the reach of her slightly bloody hand. The episode will conclude with a last-minute rescue by either the womanizing baby daddy or the law firm’s loyal clerk (the Brits say “clark.” Adorable!).
I dare this “Silk” show to prove me wrong. It won’t, though. I can’t even conceive of a universe where a TV lady would go unpunished for her promiscuity. She could never just have the abortion and go on to live a fulfilling, stalker-free life with neither man nor baby, concerning herself instead with stuff of a non-maternal nature. Even more unthinkable: that she would have a rudimentary pre-existing grasp of modern birth control techniques, and therefore wouldn’t get pregnant in the first place, thus leaving her character free to explore the vast array of non-uterus-related adventures that all male characters have pursued since the dawn of story-telling.