30 Something year old women, particularly white middle class women, must simply adore Offspring, the Australian, multi-generation drama recently available on Netflix. While it was originally aired in Australia beginning in 2010, and in 11 other countries over the past 7 years, Americans are just now catching on…like wild fire. This show delights its female viewers by indulging us in the inner thinking's of its main character "Nina Proudman." Nina is both a successful hard working obstetrician, as well as a neurotic, over thinking, loyal family member who vacillates between self-doubt and self-actualization. Viewers get to watch this lovable main character perform high risk C-sections in one scene, and hide under a blanket, immobilized by romantic relationship fears, in the next.
We also get to watch Nina serve as "the responsible one" in her large, functioning, but lets say, unconventional (especially for a TV drama) family. Nina's character is a woman who feels extremely confidant and together in some areas, and so messy and ill prepared in others. She makes her female viewers feel like we are not alone in our insecurities by normalizing the space between confidant and in control, and the murky, flying without a compass space that so many of us dwell in. Women delight in seeing this deliberately un-deliberate woman, who has no prepared answers for conventional conversation moments. Do you want to get married? Want kids? Settle down? Nina only knows she wants to be a doctor…the rest is unclear. Female viewers must love this lack of clarity that most of the female characters on this show portray, as it feels like an indulgence; we are so tired by the world's obsessions with "our plans" and having to show up at family holiday functions ready to respond to the fast flow of personal questions that are fired at us.
Without spoiling too much of the series ( 7 seasons now available for streaming), 30 something women are likely feeling relieved to see this show, as it continually affirms that the issues in our lives are much less black and white than usually perpetuated by popular media. We are not always the sexy professional, the dorky scientist, the beautiful idiot, or the childless narcissist...sometimes we are all of these and none of these. It also shows what our modern families actually look like. Raise your hand if your parents are divorced (my hands up), raise your hand if you have shared many meals (happy or sad) with one or even both of your parent's girlfriends or boyfriends (my hand is up), and raise your hand if your parent's separation was the least dramatic thing in your life (again, hand up). Even if your parent's separation was dramatic...it was years and years ago, and likely (and hopefully) you have adjusted. If you are a woman in your mid to late 30's (like Nina and her sister), you are likely dealing with fertility issues, a parent who is dealing with an illness, and balancing a successful or even struggling career. You may or may not have a partner in your life, and likely if you do have a partner, they don't make enough money for you to stay home and eat bon bons.
We know that our current 30 something generation of women are waiting longer than previous generations to have children, and many are choosing not to have children at all. We have also been educated about the 'sandwich generation.' What we have yet to fully exhaust, is popular culture's depictions of all these women. So many shows still depict women as either happy and married, or single and lonely. But come on, we all know miserable married people and happy single people, and we all know people in between. The truth is that marriage doesn't automatically make you happy, and neither does being "single and free" so to speak. Offspring shows us the complexity of family, much more reflective of modern times. It shows us a beautiful mess, where someone's marriage isn't a sign of "all is good here" and that it's totally normal (and often necessary) if a woman wants to put her career first…or not.
It also shows you that "happily ever after" looks much more like "happy for now," that you don't have to have "gay friends" and "straight friends," you can just have friends, and that the people you call your family, are likely not all blood related. Without formally politicizing issues, this show brings up abortion, miscarriages and loss, fertility issues, divorce, recovery from extramarital affairs (perpetrated by both women and men), sick parents, interracial relationships, and having babies outside of marriage on purpose. If you are a white woman with a college degree and in your 30's, you will likely watch this show and say…"Yup." Good luck watching just one episode, I had better luck giving up sugar in my coffee.
By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, is a Certified Professional Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.
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