Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life Unexpected an Unexpected Hit on the CW


(SEE CORRECTION BELOW. My horoscope warned me about making a mistake with something I wrote today: Try to be very aware of your actions at home and in the outside world today, and just remember to always think before you act. You may have a tendency to be somewhat careless and might end up overlooking a few things right now. ;)


By Lorraine Dusky

"Life Unexpected" was an unexpected hit for me last night on the CW. With all my internal fears and prejudices against first moms being shown as heartless harlots, I was ready to pounce and say Aha! there they go again when the show debuted last night. Instead, dear reader, I loved it.

A brief plot outline is called for here. A fifteen-going-on-sixteen girl, Lux (Britt Robertson), shows up looking for her parents--she was never adopted and has been rotated  through a number of unhappy and abusive foster homes throughout the years. Lux wants to be emancipated at sixteen so she can escape one last lousy foster care placement. To do that, she needs the signatures of her parents. Birth parents, first parents--her parents. (Because she was a white baby, we wondered how the writers would explain why she was never adopted, which is taken care of in a quick conversation with her mother, Cate [Shiri Appleby]: Lux needed several heart surgeries as an infant and was not a "healthy white baby" until she was three, and by then she had passed the "cute baby" stage and no one stepped up for her. Okay, plausible enough. All kinds of things happen in life. If in doubt, see a previous blog about my own strange occurrence of late.)

Lux tracks down her parents, Cate, a sassy radio talk-show host, and Baze (Kristoffer Polaha), a beer-loving bar owner who lives above his bar. Baze never even knew he and Cate had a child, as their romance seems to have been a one-night stand in the back of his parents' van after a dance. When both Baze and Cate show up in court for Lux's emancipation hearing, the judge denies Lux's request, makes them the responsible parents on the spot, but when their bickering outside the courtroom leads Lux to walk away. She goes back to her foster home...out of which she has been kicked.

Several scenes got to me: Baze and Lux watching the You Tube video of the lion raised by a couple but returned to the wild, and a year later, the lion recognized them. I had heard of this amazing tale but had not seen it until just this moment and well, you know I'm the teary type, particularly of late, and this had me enthralled after twenty seconds.


Other bits I appreciated: when Cate tells her boyfriend about her daughter; when there is dialogue about her not hoping for anything because she's afraid of being hurt, references to how Cate has been affected by surrendering her child, which made this light years away from Juno, the most hated film in memory, where one sobbing scene seems is meant to stand for all the pain of giving up a child entails. The pilot episode last night of Life Unexpected was both touching and amusing, the dialogue clever not cloying, and it had none of the smart-ass attitude of the first-mother-we-all-love-to-hate, Juno.

Life Unexpected did not sugar coat the answer when Lux asks Cate if she even thought of keeping her. After a pregnant pause, Cate says, No. She was fifteen at the time, the same age Lux is now. Cate and Baze end up in bed together after Lux disappears, and don't hate me, that too wrung true to me. Over the years, both adoption reformer Florence Fisher and I talked about how many women we both knew who had sex with the father of their child after they met through being reunited by the child that was given up for adoption. I don't know if the lost child created a special bond or if it was just the old love and attraction that is still there. And I'll admit, I continued a relationship with my daughter's father after I relinquished, but it was dead and over when we were reunited when she was--fifteen. But everybody's different, every story has its own nuance, its own ending.

Lux is sleeping on the sidewalk when Cate emerges from the bar in last night's dress around six a.m. "Don't you ever learn?" is Lux's reaction. Elsewhere we learn that Cate doesn't trust people because she doesn't want to get hurt, that she is tired of pushing people away. When her fiance makes a smart remark about her being "one of those girls who got knocked up on prom night," her face crumbles. What's a little hard to explain is how Cate's fiancee is not troubled by the fact that she and Baze obviously had a night together...but hey, I said, he's obviously going to be a part of the show, the cool understanding step-dad. Or not. I'll wait and see.

The show so far has won critical kudos, and last night scored the largest audience for CW on a Monday night in a year. I've already go my DVR set to record automatically, and I hope the show, the creation of Liz Tigelaar, is a huge hit. I was not surprised to read that Ms. Tigelaar is adopted. I'll be looking for more news about her. If you happen to read this Liz, please leave us a message as to how we can be in touch.
To watch a four minute clip:

31 comments :

  1. I'm looking forward to seeing it, and wanted to note that the first episode will be shown again Wednesday night at 8pm on the CW. And, NO, I am not employed by the CW! LOL! I will be watching on Wednesday night.

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  2. I liked it and will continue to watch - I need to see where they go with this story!

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  3. I loved it. I think they did a great job of getting to the truth. Not just the general truth, but my own truth. I never for a second considered keeping my son, and I have to say, I was actually shocked that they went with that. Because it's not something you hear birth mothers say very often.

    Besides that, I think it's just a good show. It was well written, nicely cast, and the actors have good chemistry. I will definitely keep watching.

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  4. Did anybody object? I have heard privately from people in our community who did not like it.

    Why?\Let's discuss.

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  5. Initially, I really didn't care for for the show, perhaps because it wasn't enough of "my" story. OK - I actually said on my blog that I hated it (strong words, but that was my reaction the morning after). Maybe if Nate & Kate's story had been more like mine, it would have resonated with me more on the first viewing...who knows.

    However, as I have had the chance to mull it over since yesterday morning and try to see the show from other perspectives, I freely acknowledge the show has many redeeming qualities, including the strength portrayed in Lux. I also *hope* it will open up a useful dialogue about the "dance" of reunification between adoptees and their natural parents.

    Although I didn't like the show at first, I will continue to watch - "I need to see where they go with this story!" (just like maybe said).

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  6. Well, it's 10:20am, and my make-up is ruined already. Oh my gosh, that lion video. *tears*

    I watched Life Unexpected and I thought it was good. It's the CW network after all, so I wasn't expecting superior HBO-style writing, but I thought it was good.

    I'll admit to being slightly taken aback in regards to how very young the parents looked in relation to Lux, but once I did the math, I guess it all worked.

    Anyway, I'll be watching again. I actually went to the CW website for the show and from what I can gather, they've already got 3 more episodes already filmed. Hopefully, it will get a following so we will be able to see more.

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  8. I am happy it has an adoptee at its core.

    Don't know if we get it but will try and find it.

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  9. Lorraine: I liked the show a lot and agree with your view.
    I'll be a regular viewer, definitely, because I found it completely warming.

    Liz Tigelaar has a Facebook account where you can get in contact. Anyway I'll send her this article.

    You can send her a message here:
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/liztigelaar?v=info&ref=search

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  10. I watched the preview you posted. But I can't watch this, like I can't watch much of anything about adoption, real or fiction. It hurts too much.

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  11. It seemed to encourage people being selfish rathter than self sacrificing for their child and that annoyed me. There is nothing funny about saying things to your child that indicate you don't want them-on the contrary doing so is beyond unclassy and raunchy-the only hope I have for this show is that people who watch will see NOT how to act to a child who never asked to be born and is not responsible for interruppting her Mother's life.

    I don't think the things that Cate said were supposed to be funny. It all seemed very painful for everyone involved. Unless you're talking about something else that happened during the show. Maybe something I don't remember?

    I also don't think the writers were encouraging people to be selfish towards their children. They just presented Nate and Cate as what they are. Both of them are supposed to be immature in some way. That way, we get to see them grow as they get to know their daughter.

    The way I look at it, a fictional character doesn't always have to do the right thing in order to be a good, well drawn, interesting character. Cate and Nate were both taken by surprise, and had some reactions that were hurtful to Lux. I don't think we were expected to think their behavior was OK.

    That's my impression, anyway. And God knows I watch and love shows with much less likable characters that Cate and Nate. But adoption is a very emotional subject, so I think, for everyone here, this show that's impossible to watch objectively, and we're all going to have different reactions.

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  13. Improper Adoptee, I see what you mean. I can't speak much to whether it will become Juno-like, because I haven't seen the movie. My understanding is that Juno was very nonchalant about surrendering her child. It's certainly possible that, if there are flashbacks to when Cate made her decision, we'll see that she was also nonchalant about it. But we've already seen that it didn't stick. Despite her inappropriate behavior, and her generally immature nature, she was also thrilled to see Lux. Once it registered, she said "I've been waiting for this moment for years." And it didn't take her long to decide she wants to be a mother to Lux.

    I don't think she needs her fiance to help her with Lux. She just needs to know if he's willing to. Because it's a big deal, you know. And I don't think she'd walk away from her daughter if Ryan isn't interested in being a part of this new family. I'm convinced she would walk away from Ryan.

    I'm not trying to talk you into liking or watching the show. As I said in my previous comment, we're all going to react differently to this. This show is very close to home for both of us, although for different reasons. I can see why it would feel *too* close to home for some people. As for me, I'm already in love with it. Since Gilmore Girls and Everwood were canceled, I've been waiting for a good family drama.

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  14. Improper Adoptee:
    First, think this is a drama mixed with comedy, because it would be impossible to introduce a topic like this one without a funny element.
    Secondly, forget the Juno/Gilmore thing because that's just a commercial tag.
    I watched the show and know a little things in advance, also
    The way the parents behave is gonna be completely explained. She's not being selfish without a good reason.
    Finally, you can watch all of this with particular eyes. Now, let me give you my view.
    I'm a woman with no children yet, and I believe there's nothing more difficult and generous that giving life to a baby you are not going to keep.
    The first thing that came to my mind while watching the show was: she could have easily aborted. Why didn't she?
    I'm all for life, let me say. But this unsolved question haunted me. What makes a 16 year old girl, who is brillant at school and is full of possibilities to deliver that baby?
    I think that in a very subtle way this show will be very helping and instructive.
    I understand for many of you will impossible to watch, but the others might be more helpfull than you believe.
    Joan.

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  15. Dear Anonymous:

    We who have given our children away do not do so because we were feeling "generous" with our babies. And you are probably going to get negative feedback from some first mothers here when they read your comment. Let me try to head them off before the language gets nasty.

    We gave our children up because we were desperate, because we could not find a way to keep them, because social workers lied to us, because our parents forced us to, because of a million reasons that come down to: desperation. Surrender to the tidal wave of impossibility engulfing us. Not generosity. That is pure pap (and that's the nice was of saying it) instilled into the culture by the adoption-agency mindset in business to make a profit from dealing in babies. The object: to make the women/girls who give up their babies feel better somehow about themselves.

    It does not work.

    If giving up a baby was so damn generous, that means that all the people who keep them are "selfish." It sounds to me as if you hope to adopt one day; and if that is your goal, I ask you to understand and accept the vast difference between "generosity" and "desperation" and do not confuse them with talking with a woman whose child you hope to adopt. It is extremely offensive and demeaning to us mothers who have "surrendered"--and many of us do, finally, surrrender to forces larger than ourselves--children to adoption.

    And to all who comment here: Please watch your tone and your language. We try to be open to not only first mothers, but also adoptees, adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents so that all can learn from one another. But when the language gets snarky, it just turns people off and away. We are going to be more diligent about what we post, and what we do not.

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  16. First, If you were refering to me with the "offensive line", you misundertood me completely.

    There's nothing further from my mind that adopting, I'm not a social worker and I don't have a problem with being bashed.

    I'm 100% neutral here.

    Then, sorry if I made some of you feel bad, but I don't think "generosity" is crap.
    You know you could have not have it (you can state you were cheated, pushed to give it away, threatened, desperate or not).
    I know people that choose the other option, because NO ONE can stop you when you set up your mind. There are ways.

    Unconsciouly or consciously, sorry, there's generosity in the act of GIVING BIRTH when you could have choosen other paths.

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  17. Anonymous/Joan asked, "But this unsolved question haunted me. What makes a 16 year old girl, who is brillant at school and is full of possibilities to deliver that baby?"

    I think this is a valid question, one that needs deeper exploration than what is typically offered by those who think adoption is wonderful or by the anti-choice rhetoric. There are many complexities surrounding a young woman's pregnancy: how did the pregnancy occur (love, violence, spontaneity, lack of knowledge about biology, etc), who is supporting her throughout the pregnancy, what role do her parents play, what is her financial situation, is the father involved, how do teachers and school counselors respond, what kind of community does she live in, is she religious/spiritual/nonbeliever, what is the state of her mental and physical health...and many, many more factors to be considered. These factors can also change a great deal from when a woman first learns she is pregant to when the baby is actually born.

    Society likes to look for a simple cut-and-dried answer to if/when a woman will continue her pregnancy which I'm afraid just doesn't exist in most of these situations. I'm glad Joan is willing this ask this question.

    Improper has good points about the negative aspects of the show; but I am hopeful that the show can be done well and can tell a much more compelling story about adoption and it's impact on the lives of all involved.

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  18. We are forgetting here that the show is not about adoption per se...because the girl was never adopted.

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  20. I don't understand the criticisms of "Life Unexpected". It's cute and funny and says things I want people, particularly the young audience of CW, to hear:

    Adoption is painful for birthparents and adoptees. Giving up a child is no guarantee that the child will have a better life or even that the child will be adopted. Birthparents and adoptees remain connected in some way and generally want some kind of reunion.

    Finally, although a men may urge a pregnant girl friend to "get rid of it" when "it" walks in the door, he is often delighted.

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  21. I actually think the "not everyone" statement made by Cate in the car was a very self-deprecating remark and not meant to hurt Lux. I personally liked the interactions between Lux and Cate. I thought they were well-written and acted.

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  22. "Unconsciouly or consciously, sorry, there's generosity in the act of GIVING BIRTH when you could have choosen other paths."

    And this could apply just as easily to ANY biological parent who may have gotten pregnant unintentionally. This does not just apply to adoption and unwed social stigmas.

    Also, adoptees aren't gifts. We were not voluntarily given away as 'gifts.' Yes, we were additions to new families. Yes, we were loved. But if our mothers had had some sort of support... any "real" choice at all... they would have wanted to keep, raise and love us. Just like our adoptive families did and continue to do.

    If giving a baby away was the best thing to do, we'd ALL be doing it no matter what.

    If you add abuse or neglect into the situation, I can understand that adoption becomes the best thing for the baby. In case where parents have to remain anonymous or be incriminated by the law? Yes, adoption can become the best thing.

    But from scratch, the idea of a woman giving birth just to give up her child being "generous"?

    It does not compute.

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  23. Maura-a reference was made about her giving up Lux-to lLux in Cate's car-I said that in my entry I did about that show-Cate said she didn't understand why Lux wasn't Adopted and then Lux told her about her heart condition and went on to say that she spend the first three years of her life getting surgeries which made her unAdoptable because of high medical bills-then she said by the time she was okay at three, no one wanted to Adopt her because she wasn't a baby anymore-everyone wants a baby and then Cate said "not everyone" meaning herself of course not wanting Lux-she might as well just come out and said I didn't want you-I threw you away

    Yes, that's terribly hurtful to hear. I winced when she said it. She should have just been quiet. But I think one of Cate's less admirable characteristics is impulsive behavior. It appears she's really good at opening her mouth without thinking first.

    I have to say, though, that there is some truth in her statement. Not from most, or possibly any, of the birth mothers here, or any of the birth mothers I've met. But it is my truth, and I doubt I'm the only birth mother who's felt that way.

    I could have had a late-term abortion, but I wasn't willing to do that. If I had kept my son, I would have had plenty of support from my family and from the father. I had a decent job, I was 23 years old, and I could have raised my son if I wanted to. But I didn't want to. I never wanted to have kids, and I was as sure about that then as I am now.

    I realize that might seem unfathomable, and that's OK. But, Improper Adoptee, I guarantee that I didn't throw my son away. I did what I knew was best for me and hoped was best for him. I would have been a terrible mother.

    In case anyone feels like co-opting my story to prove "generosity", don't. As Mei Ling said, children are not gifts. The treatment of children as a commodity is gross beyond comprehension. I didn't walk away and never look back. I've thought about him every day for more than 30 years, and I hope that he had a good family. And discovering Lorraine's blog has made me realize how big a hole I have in my heart.

    If he ever knocks on my door, I'll say the same thing Cate said to Lux. "I've been waiting for this moment for years."

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  24. And we must always keep in mind that this show IS a work of fiction. Granted, it is a work of fiction in which the head writer happens to be an adoptee but it is still a work of fiction.
    I think it is strange when people use a work of fiction to promote any kind of agenda.
    I mean, I'm not going to use Sherlock Holmes to promote any kind of agenda on national security. I'm not going to use "Glee" to promote a need for better education practices. It's fiction.
    People need to keep that in mind.

    And BTW, Anon, the happy-dappy adoption lover with no relation to adoption whatsoever is just plain out of line. Try walking a mile in any of our shoes before you go talking out of your tush anon. I'm just saying.

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  25. "I could have had a late-term abortion, but I wasn't willing to do that."

    I don't understand. If you mention it as possibility, then go on to say you weren't willing to do it anyway, then... why bring it up?

    It feeds into the stereotypes that all of us adoptees were just burdens who "could have" been aborted, regardless of whether or not it might have been true.

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  26. Mei Ling, I think Maura is just talking about herself considering late term abortion then rejecting the idea, not feeding any stereotype about adoptees or birthmothers. Lorraine also considered abortion but it was too late, as did some others who later ended up surrendering.

    I would never have had an abortion, so for my son that is not an issue, maybe not for you either. Each of our stories is individual with different views and values and considerations, and nobody should be discouraged from telling their story because it is different from the majority or from your own situation.

    The only person who needs be concerned about Maura's view of abortion is Maura's son. What she did or did not do has no relevance for you or me or others.

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  27. Maura, welcome and thanks for posting the raw unvarnished truth.

    And Maryanne is right, I came awfully close to having an abortion, but wow did everything change once I a) knew I was having my baby; and b) once she was born. Each of our stories is both different--and the same--and each of us has our own reaction to a situation.

    New show tonight, 9 p.m. Easter and Central on the CW. I'll be watching.

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  28. Thank you, Maryanne. You sussed that out perfectly.

    Mei Ling, I'm not sure how writing about what I went through could be feeding into a stereotype. I think, if anything, what I wrote broke a stereotype or two. This blogs breaks stereotypes, myths, and down right delusions just by its existence. People like to pretend that adopted children come from cabbage patches; or that birth mothers are 15-year-olds with no options; or that we're brave, self-sacrificing saints. But it's not that simple. Every one of us is unique, and we all have a different story to tell.

    You and I have different experiences with adoption, so we'll perhaps interpret things differently. But there are a lot of painful truths when it comes to adoption, and I believe they all need to be known.

    Thank you for the kind welcome, Lorraine. You do some great work here.

    Finally, I agree with BethGo. It's important to remember that "Life Unexpected" is fiction. Its primary goal is to tell a good story. I think anyone here will be more invested in its content, and how it tells its story, than the average viewer would be. But I know if I get too emotionally tied up in the subject matter, I'll miss the story. And I don't want to do that.

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  29. Because all people see is "I *could* have had an abortion" and then they cling to that and use it as a means of silencing adult adoptees.

    Unplanned pregnancy = "could have" aborted = be grateful.

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  30. Mei Ling, so you want mothers who considered abortion but then did not have one not to talk about it?

    What someone else's mother did has nothing to do with you or other adoptees. It has nothing to do with me or other mothers. Everyone's life and choices and consequences are their own. Nobody is telling you to be grateful by telling her own experience with considering abortion.

    I never wanted an abortion and would not ever have had one unless raped, which I was not. I was in love with my kid's father and wanted our child. But that is my story, it has nothing to do with anyone but me and my son.

    Mothers who considered abortion, those who had abortions as well as surrendering a child, those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice should all be able to tell their own story without worrying about offending someone else.

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  31. Mei, I certainly hope that your story is your own and that other adoptees with loving parents who adopted them can and do feel satisfied with life, and do not feel so much anger and resentment.

    I think if your situation were to be generalized, which it cannot be, than no child should be put up for adoption and that the options should be have the child and keep it or don't have children.

    I am in a situation where I want kids, and if I find out I cannot have my own which I won't know for a while, I would want to think that adoption is an option. But, if all adopted kids were as angry and resentful as you who never accept the adopted parents as their own, even if adopted at birth, I wouldn't want to adopt a child. Thankfully I know that you are one person and do not represent all adopted kids. Be careful about generalizations yourself - Also, I pose a question for you: wouldn't you rather have a loving family than not be adopted assuming your birth parents for whatever reason chose to not keep you? I am not saying you should be grateful, but do try not to erode the desires of people who actually want to adopt. Your story is fine to share, but remember, it is your story and not the story of every adopted kid.

    I find the conversations on this board very honest and refreshing as they do not predominately fall into the dogmatic crys of "you can't do that!" and the polarized views you hear so often.

    I do honestly hope though, after reading this post, that my new cousin who was recently adopted, can have the potential for a happy life and not always think "life is greener with my birth parents". I'd like to think adoption is a good option and that adoptees will have a potential to love their non birth parents as their "parents" and go onto living a good and fulfilled life.

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